Trace element concentrations in pelitic garnets from the Picuris Range of New Mexico display precipitous changes coincident with abrupt variations in Ca concentration. These patterns probably arise from the transitory participation of different trace element–enriched phases in the garnet forming reaction. Changes in the reactant and product assemblages occur at different times during the reaction history for crystals of different size, so they cannot be the result of any event affecting the entire rock, such as a change in pressure, temperature, or fluid composition. Instead, they reflect kinetic factors that cause Ca, Y, Yb, P, Ti, Sc, Zr, Hf, Sr, Na, and Li to fail to achieve chemical equilibrium during garnet growth. Caution is needed to avoid misinterpreting excursions in the concentration of these elements as event markers recording simultaneous rockwide changes in intensive parameters, when in fact they may record transient disequilibrium states that are local in scope, and not contemporaneous.