Rock On

I’ve loved rocks for as long as I can remember. They’re beautiful, fascinating and completely useful. For ages, rocks have been used to create a sense of permanence for important events. Think about Stonehenge, the pyramids, Plymouth Rock, the Blarney Stone, the Grand Canyon, the Rock of Gibralter…

Buildings of a certain era were marked with grand cornerstones where the date of the building’s opening was stamped into its foundation. Piles of rocks made lasting fences and reliable wayfinding markers. They became weapons, tools and handy liners for fire pits.

Rocks continue to create houses and marriages. The traditional gift that seals a proposal, after all, is a sparkling rock.

I think fossils are the best kinds of rocks. On the outside, they’re just another pretty face, but on the inside, it’s a whole different story. Here, cells have been captured to tell us exactly what was happening millions of years ago. Fossils are truly beautiful snapshots of the past.

At the Grand Rapids Public Museum, there is a fine collection of fossils, rocks and minerals. Additional specimens are carefully preserved in the archives, just waiting for the chance to tell their tales.

Take this beauty from the Paleozoic Era, for example. It’s hundreds of millions of years old. That in itself always makes me stop and think. Even the cavemen are whippersnappers by that count.

Experts estimate that the Paleozoic Era was roughly 544 to 245 million years ago. It was a time of dramatic geological, climate and evolutionary change. Fish, arthropods, amphibians and reptiles were rapidly evolving.

Life began in the ocean, but eventually made its way to land. Huge forests covered the continents and eventually formed the coal beds of Europe and eastern North America. Toward the end of the era, large reptiles were known to live on land and plants started to resemble some those we know today.

This was the time that single-cell creatures were evolving to more complex beings and tt is believed that the fish and fish-like creatures that evolved during this time still make up more than half of the vertebrates that inhabit the world today.

There were also at least two ice ages during the Paleozoic Era, which ended with the greatest mass extinction event in history. Experts think that 95% of all marine species met extinction at this time. Yet we know from the fossils that those survivors continue to thrive.

Years of research help guide our understanding of the world’s evolution, but it’s spectacular to see it with your own eyes. Go see the fossils. Look into the past. And see how it changes your perspective on the future.


Even before her mom said OK, Dalin Clark was collecting rocks. There’s an assortment of rock treasures scattered throughout her home. Special rocks from the beach of Lake Michigan were even grouted into the floor of her first house. She now shares the collection with her enthusiastic son and understanding husband. She hopes to make an historic fossil discovery in the backyard creek very soon.