Stones: For Ashley
I have a stone which I wear around my neck more often than not. It is a precious stone in so many senses of the word, a piece of quartz I found lying in the dirt of the Christmas Canyon Road, perfectly formed and begging for me to keep it, which I did. It wasn’t simply the oval shape of the piece, which of itself was so appealing, but also the pink hue of the crystalline center which outlined the curve of the contrasting textures. I studied it closely and then slipped it into my left pocket in company with my other keepsakes which harbor both energy and comfort for a soul such as I. Later I entrusted it to my friend Leroy to border it with silver so I could wear it around my neck where it sits today.
There are other stones here, rearing hundreds of feet above the desert floor. We walked a deep canyon yesterday somewhere between Rattlesnake Springs and Slaughter Cave, forbidding names for such a spectacular landscape. We were just miles from the entrance of the Carlsbad Caverns in a place where the same sort of geography rose above the ground’s surface rather than meandering subsurface. Here the ragged rocks and hollows rose towards the sun, wings of rock and sheltered courtyards in the shadows of the palisades. The rounded stones of the waterways made walking a challenge and we only looked up to observe the beauty above us, our attention otherwise focused on the placement of our feet.
In spite of the beauty it was the silence and isolation which was most taking. I have been entertaining hermitage of late and the peacefulness of the wilderness there reinforced the desire for the same. As dangerous as such arid retreats may appear it is the absence of any threat other than survival itself, and the avoidance of thorn or stinger, which is such a welcome relief for me. The danger of distraction is far more formidable than the possibility of dying from some elemental threat and I would rather shrivel in the sun than to crumble under pressure. The though becomes ludicrous when I venture into the remote reaches of nature’s cathedral. The persistent threat of the wasps, warmed by the winter sun, is far more tolerable than the worries I have left behind at the office. Besides, it was my daughter-in-law who was wearing yellow and I was basically unthreatened, aside from the thorns on the brush we wandered through.
Stones have always brought a comfort to me, as if nature offers up solace at every turn as I wander through her kingdom. The moment I retreat to the silence of desert, plain or forest, I escape all the worldly concerns which haunt me otherwise. It has been that way from my childhood, when I would slip away into the tall grasses off the edge of our yard and find the safety of their shelter. The only raised voices one hears in nature are the songs of the birds or the call of one creature to another, the whinny of a horse or the soft low of a cow. Anger is absent, only defense or competition bring a heightened response and the calm countenance of a balanced existence is the norm. Only storms and fire bring disruption and the challenge of drought or chill is the natural sorting out of the strong and the weak, challenges for which I am more suited for than any other. It is a place where only flame or flood will alter the landscape, which then settles back to the norm as quickly as it changed. When I go to such places I will sometimes fill my pockets or pack with stones to keep this balance close to me, to remind me with their weight of what is best.
I am not yet ready for a hermitage but I seek it out all the same. The luxury of my life is the ability to move freely between the two realms with no forced effort to remain there. The solitude poses no threat to me and the one challenge which remains is the opportunity to make it more of a constant, I don’t want to have to return until I am ready to. Necessity of the conventional sort is the one thing I have yet to diminish but even that is finite. My ability to share the treasures of the wilderness is like the stones I carry in my pocket, a reminder and a source of comfort which remains a constant in itself. My retreat to the wilderness holds the solution and forms a bridge between the two realms, an exit to solitude which avails itself to me even as I share it with everyone else. I wear a stone on a chain so I may never forget that, the rest are in my pocket.