Gravel – James Heath

When we want to quantify the immeasurable we talk about the grains of sand on a beach. To imagine such a number is impossible so we use this to mean those really big numbers that are beyond our comprehension. It works. Sand is small and the individual grains are everywhere. Piled up in beautiful dunes and collecting in our arse cracks and in our ears to be discovered days after returning from a trip to the beach.

The same with stars in the sky. There are billions upon billions twinkling away in the night sky and collecting themselves into awesome brush strokes of colour when we look at them through those whopping great telescopes that NASA manages to catapult away from earth.

But what about the humble gravel? A collection of humdrum grey rock and to be found everywhere on planet Earth. It’s not as small as sand so falls short there and there’s no explosion of nuclear power at their core so it doesn’t look as cool as a star. It does, however, have a place. It’s like us. Like me and you. Nothing too significant on its own and each individual rock looks much like another. No real beauty in an individual rock. However, it resembles us humans so well.

Gravel possesses no innate power when dumped on a roadside or when shovelled into a hastily dug pit. It’s certainly got individual power though. Pick up a piece of gravel and throw it at someone’s head and they will most definitely feel its force.

They even classify the stuff. I’ve looked it up. They sort gravel according to something called the Udden-Wentworth scale. They do it according to its granular size. We don’t currently sort humans according to any kind of granular or atomic scale (I would like to see someone try) but we sure do love to categorise, sort, differentiate and put labels on ourselves. Skin colour, religion, ethnicity, language. All kind of pointless when you think about it. I am me and you are you. Essentially we are the same but with small quirky differences that really don’t amount to very much. The same goes for gravel. It’s still a rock, regardless of how you try to label it or where you try to put it on a scale or within a system.

Gravel’s the workhorse of the rocks. Again, I’ve looked it up. It’s not doing anything fancy. Just doing its job in holding together cement, providing shitty but adequate covering for roads and highways across the globe and providing a disappointing substitute for sand on uncomfortable beaches in crappy cold places like England.

Bit like you really. And me. And everyone else on planet Earth. Doing our bit and playing our part but not really amounting to much and only very rarely the subject of study or serious consideration by others.

So let’s spend a moment to acknowledge the importance of gravel. And while we’re at it, a moment to acknowledge the importance of us. Little grey rocks and little pink and brown people all rubbing up alongside each other. Managing to coexist by slowly rubbing away the rough edge of our neighbours. Trying to play our part on a global scale but knowing the most we can ever do is be nice to each other, work together and try not to scramble too quickly to become sand. It’s small, vain and has a tendency to hang out between people’s toes and no us ever want to do that.

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