Stones provide great comfort

The wind was blowing in my office window last week, repeatedly chasing papers off my already disorganized desk.
I was deep in “writing thought” and was annoyed at the intrusion. I would have shut the windows, but I’ve been so hot for what seems like the entire summer; the breeze was a welcome reprieve from “glowing.”
Remember, men sweat and women glow. If that’s really the case, then I’m practically fluorescent.
I reached for something heavy to contain the papers and I grabbed a bowl filled with small stones—a bowl that sits on the shelf above my desk.
I suppose you might say stones are everywhere, and not particularly “precious” in terms of value, except that’s not really the case. I gather stones whenever I am somewhere that has the feel of being special.
I have a large clear glass plate on which these stones gather. They aren’t labelled and they all mix together, no stone claiming higher significance than another.
There are stones from Cuba and Lake Erie, all the Great Lakes actually, the Bay of Fundy, and some from places I no longer can recall.
If I am walking, I undoubtedly spot a collecting-worthy stone to drag home. The criteria for such a stone is a simple one: size, smooth surface, unusual colouring, or just one that I noticed in the “crowd.”
I can’t resist stones. They are more precious to me than diamonds or emeralds or anything else that sparkles. I am drawn to stones without explanation, as though I can’t help myself; the pull is stronger than muscle.
I practised skipping stones when I was young. I searched for just the right shape and size, but when it came time to release it, the result was often to slip the stone in my pocket, with the intention to release it another day.
The particular bowl of stones in my office has stones from one place only—from the bank of the mighty Rainy River that flows by my childhood farm, a place that defines me.
There’s something very grounding and comforting about holding granite in the palm of your hand. Our hands can’t alter it, yet time wind and water can change it dramatically.
The stones from this incredible river were gathered in 1974 when I had to leave for university—a departure I participated in reluctantly, after my desperate and teary pleas to stay and “be a farmer” proved fruitless.
So, I strolled along the shore, certain my life was over, doomed at the very least, searching for the perfect mementos to take with me on this obligatory journey. And here still are these stones, on my shelf, some lost, misplaced over time, but a bowlful remains.
There’s so little in life that is lasting and as I age, this particular truth becomes clearer each year. Who knows what journey and adventure these pebbles experienced before they joined the inventory of my treasures.
First Nations’ peoples may have examined them as to their potential to be shaped into tools or arrowheads. Courier-du-bois may have stubbed their toes on them when climbing from their canoes.
La Verendrye himself may have tried skipping them across the waters in Rainy Lake before the stones tumbled downstream to my farm.
Some child before me may have clutched them, rubbing their smoothness on her cheek before dropping the stone back with the others.
Perhaps that is why I keep them, store them inside my life, recognizing that one day someone will toss them out, not seeing their value and these stones will continue on some other adventure.
They will outlast me. But for now, their pure though inanimate qualities comfort me, calm me. I’d drag a boulder from Rainy River into my house if I could.
I think if I listen carefully enough, I can hear these stones talking—telling stories that only I can hear.
wendistewart@live.ca

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