Finding chaney in St. Croix

Chaney: Cane Bay, St. Croix

Chaney: Cane Bay, St. Croix

When doing nothing, it's nice to have something to do. 

For example...

Collecting sea glass while poking along a desolate shoreline...

Keeping an eye open for morels while wandering a springtime forest...

Playing cornhole while standing around in a parking lot getting hammered on Busch Light...

While I was in St. Croix, I learned about looking for chaney. Even though I had already been on the island a week, I was oblivious to chaney. Once it was pointed out though, and especially after it was explained to me, I was hooked on finding it.

Chaney is broken pieces of (mostly) colonial era china. The name originated when local children would smooth down the edges and use it as play money (china + money = chaney, or china + change = chaney, or... or... or...). 

You find chaney in the dirt, in the woods, and alongside trails, especially after a good rain to expose new pieces. If you're in the right place, and have time to look, you'll come across quite a bit.

Most chaney, like most china I suppose, is plain white. Not especially interesting. But the best stuff has bits of abstracted design. It can be incredibly beautiful.

Where does it come from though? I know! I asked the same question!

Much it dates back to the 1700s. Depending on which version of the story you prefer, chaney either:

  1. Was broken by the caseload while being shipped from Europe during rough seas, and then dumped.
  2. Was broken one dish at a time during regular use, and then tossed out the nearest window.
  3. Was broken one kitchen's-worth at a time during hurricanes and then strewn all over the island.

I'm guessing some combination of all three. But however it got there, it's there.

With or without chaney laying about, I would have been poking around in the bush either way. Because that's what I do. It was great having some sort of a mission, though, as arbitrary as it might seem. An open ended treasure hunt.

It turns out looking for chaney is the perfect thing to do when you're looking to do nothing much at all.

And I'm always looking to do nothing much at all.

I've seen chaney made into jewelry, which is pretty awesome.

You can learn a bit more about chaney here.