I broke this essay up rather unceremoniously simply due to its size. Sorry that this part starts so abruptly...
The three girls spent some portion of every day examining their finds, washing them off, and building structures with them on the pool deck. To the untrained eye, it might seem as though their standards were very low, but in fact, they were somewhat particular, looking primarily for rocks of unusual shape or smoothness and coveting especially those with sparkles.
The weather turned rainy the second week, and we spent more time inside the cabins cooking and playing board games. It was then that I had occasion to notice that the polish on my pinky toes was completely gone and the other toes were beginning to chip. This didn’t really bother me as it would have followed the same progression at home, and I certainly wasn’t about to use my limited Spanish to attempt to purchase nail polish remover in Patagonia.
The rest of the trip was fantastic, and the girls bid a tearful “Spanglish” good-bye to their new Argentinean friend. They were each allowed to bring three r-r-r-rocks home with them and each has earned a special place in their treasures at home. The week that we have been home has been filled with laundry, sorting photographs from the trip, and showing off our souvenirs to friends and family. We arrived home on Thanksgiving Day, unaccustomed to the wintry temperatures and completely unprepared for the impending holiday shopping season. Is it any wonder I just haven’t found the time to scrub my toe paint off yet?
Because of my propensity to just let my polish gradually wear off, it occurred to me this morning to wonder where all of those little polish bits end up. Certainly, a good percentage of them are washed down my shower drain into my septic tank. I imagine opening the tank one day to have it pumped and gazing down at a glittering rainbow of shiny sediment. I’m certain that nail polish is one of the items on the list of things NOT to put down the septic tank (along with eggshells, coffee grounds, and melon rinds) because it will never biodegrade, but I have a fantasy that it somehow makes its way into the environment in a more positive way. I am sure that I left miniscule shards of color on several beaches in Patagonia and some undoubtedly sank to the bottom of the pool as well. Perhaps it will bypass the filter and wash into the groundwater there. Maybe some of the pieces will be accidentally ingested by rainbow trout and incorporated into their shimmery scales or pooped out to fuse with the rocks at the bottom of the lake. Other bits might be run over by trucks and ground into the rocks on the road and eventually, hundreds or thousands of years from now, other children will be playing with the rocks and will discover some special ones with purple flecks in them. Maybe I am doing future generations of children a world of good by letting my toenail polish create those mysterious little glittery bits that will intrigue and engage them in play for days. My children used rocks to forge a friendship with another child with whom they needed a way to communicate. Those treasures will remain forever, like the rocks with a hint of something special on the tops of their dressers.