Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Sticks and Stones
Both were innocuous in appearance, yet in realizing where they came from, it was if they possessed of some secret, to galaxies far beyond the limits of imagination, created somewhere in deep space, perhaps in a time when things were not irrevocably fixed to their form.
In a container in my vehicle is another stone, this one a sturdy chunk that posses neither beauty or function but was picked up from a lake high up in the Sierras where a hundred and fifty years prior, the Donner Family was stranded. I'd gone up there after a death in my family, to just get away from the city and be alone, as it brought back the memories of losing my Mom.
Losing a parent when one is still young is hard, Not the very young, those who still live well in advance of all future days, those simple times that know no introspection. But rather, the youth that is a coming of age, that time that is a shadow line between the beautiful continuity of innocence and the realization that nothing is fixed.
I'm not sure why I picked it up and took it home , nor why I still have it, But it's there among the tools of my trade, the archaeologist of blood, bone and steel.
Mom and I would take the stones and we'd go back home, where she would cut and polish them, her hands moving quickly and expertly with her equipment, in cutting motions into the cold stone, movements that years later, I would mimic as I cut into cold flesh and bone.
My brother and I would get up while it was still dark, and march down to the waters edge, hoping to get there to see the dawn explode over the water. I could spend hours there, just watching the way the water shaped itself around the rocks and me, the gentle waves moving against the shore, like breathing. In the bright cold water, there would be all sorts of strange creatures, all sorts of mysteries.
Big Bro and I wade along the edges, gingerly looking, while not harming anything that was there, hoping to find a prehistoric shell to take home, knowing that at some time, all of the land where our family homesteaded had once been part of this ocean. Sometimes we'd just find ocean sanded stone, and we'd pick one up and fling it as far as we could, calling out each others name. Sometimes we found bits and pieces of things much more wondrous, and found only on the beach.
Many of you have seen a sand dollar. They're commonly sold in souvenir stores. But what you see is only the remaining skeleton of a living sea creature. When living, the sand dollar is covered with fine hair like cilia that cover tiny spines, soft, and almost purple in color. But the remaining shell is beautiful, fragile, white. The essential essence of what this creature was.
They sit in Dad's house, years past his youth and his passion, as the children, and grandchildren, and great grandchildren of his passion, still hold them up as carefully as if they were glass.
As children, we'd bring them home at the end of an adventure, our pockets full of small rocks and shells and artifacts of the day. I felt somehow at home with these small bits of the ancient land, though I felt as if I was living in a alien world in the small eddy currents of their homes, among creatures that were so different from me, somehow I knew I belonged there. At night, we'd build a fire and sit and listen to the lapping of the waves, dreams of my future filled my head.
That is why, even now, I like living near the edge of a body of cold water, the gentle lapping of the surf within my horizon, the sky the color of the dream-cloudy shells that sit on my mantle. There I will gather a stick and carve a name in the sand, a name that will be spoken softly here, written in the sand as a personal note, not carved in hard stone as some distant effigy.
One of my favorite places in the world in the rocky coast of Northern Ireland. Being there reminds me of those days of childhood, the rush of the water an affirmation of what draws me to search and discover. It takes me back to the taste of salt on my lips, that of rain or tears, only the years remember. The water rushes, then waits, as I do, moving in, retreating, watching, still waiting. Remembering everything past, hoping for everything good of the future, in a bone deep calm that belies the deep ache in my muscles as I climb up ancient stone steps that lead to cliffs hundreds of feet above.
I wasn't alone, though the rest of the group,took the bus back he short distance, there were a handful us, strangers but kindred spirits, not speaking, simply looking outward. The others don't dare the height, the edge, not with the wind that day, but we do, not feeling the fear until afterwards, only feeling alive, on the wind the smell and the taste of the longing to simply be here.
But for now, a few more hours, a few more artifacts of time I stole from the past, flirting with the ancients, hard rocks, the smell of peat and coal, a land brushed with snow, burnished with the traces of those that went before. Traces that say, remember me, remember this, for in it you will find yourself, and leave a piece of your heart behind.
There on top of a sea green cliff, I will call out my brothers name with a shout as I throw out a rock to watch it splash down far below, as above, I watch above, from a strong, yet fragile, light shell that houses this old soul. The rock flies through the hindrance of the deepest sleeps, through the stiff fabric of the wind, into the warm embrace of the sea.
It's only a rock, only a bit of artifact of the past that holds in it, not the prolonged burden of time that too many embrace as they age, but the bright colored fluent movement of youth, the dancing heels of those days of risk and glory. Perhaps the days of my youth are gone, as is the rock, yet the feel of its absoluteness will remain in my hands, in me, long after the wind goes silent.
Posted by Brigid at 6:57 PM