The Collinsville Savings Society is a handsome, squat structure of granite, brownstone and brick in the heart of the old mill village of Collinsville, Connecticut. With thick masonry walls, it’s a strongbox of architecture, a place where, unlike the transparent cubes of mostly glass that often pass for banks today, you have the feeling that your money is safe. But the exterior display of earth’s bedrock is not the only place you’ll find stone at this bank. Go to the far left teller window where you will find Lisa’s ever growing assemblage of rocks on the golden oak counter. Collected by colleagues, customers, friends, and Lisa herself, the stones sparkle in late afternoon sunlight.
Clustered beneath the brass rails that run atop the counter, the rocks are not organized by place of origin, size, composition or geologists’ convention, and their random placement adds to their charm. In fact, though they are evidence of deep earth history from far flung places on the planet, their principal virtue is not geological, but the birthing of stories. Each rock has a tale, and if the bank is not too busy, customers would do well to ask about them. You’ll not only win Lisa’s broad grin, but learn about the finder, where each stone was found, the circumstances of its discovery, and the fascination that has caused her to select it for display. The collection delightfully instigates conversation and smiles, and though they are small, the rocks stand out among the chained pens, calendars, deposit and withdrawal slips, loan posters, and all usual trim and tackle of bank décor.
Some rocks are jagged and others uneven, some with well formed crystals and others just country rock like gneiss, flattened by metamorphism or rounded, perhaps, by flowing water. Several of the rocks shine with glossy fingernail-size sheets of mica or chunks of white milky quartz. A somewhat spherical rock was retrieved from an adjacent driveway under reconstruction, there are dark stones from Costa Rica and pieces of a tropical island, a heart-shaped rock found on a beach, a chunk freckled with rose quartz, and a dusty-blue stone that may be lapis and which came from Argentina. There’s even a small rounded piece of brick from Germany and my contribution, a lump of bog iron from New Jersey’s Pine Barrens. Each of these and the others hold stories of places near and far, of adventure and mere serendipitous wandering.
It’s refreshing and a little startling to find these nuggets of the outdoors brought inside to such a staid institution. We often don’t truly see objects until we let them “disarrange” us, French poet and essayist Francis Ponge observed. Finding something common, but in an unusual place enables us to reboot our senses and notions of the right order of things. Step into the Collinsville Savings Society and take an unexpected trip to distant places and deep earth history. There are few pleasures as great as inviting a bit of fun and whimsy into the sleepy routine of cashing a check or depositing some extra cash.