The long breath of stone

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Once looked at, how can I stop looking? How can I not imagine this ancient boulder alive? I am sitting on the hillside next to an old large rock that I’ve nicknamed “Resting Bison” although looking at it more closely, the boulder resembles a bison’s head more than its general shape.

In the late afternoon sun, Resting Bison glows: its pelt of moss, richly green and textured, pulses with tiny vivid green shoots. One rock face is covered with moss that brings to mind Lilliputian cedar branches, row upon row. At least three different types of moss occupy other sections of the boulder. Springing out from the moss are clusters of young green ferns, perfect in their formation. Below them, their dead and decaying ancestors – the fern tendrils from last year. Bluey-grey lichen sifts across the open surfaces like icing sugar. A rubbery brown fungus catches my attention, its coppery new growth sprouting thumb shapes at the edges. In crevices and coves, miniature ponds of ice are rapidly melting, water drops glistening emerald green on the moss leaves.

This ancient rock, blending into the hillside, radiates life. It’s home to likely millions if not billions of spores and other microscopic creatures. As I sit next to the rock, I find myself, inexplicably, in tears, as I sense into its quiet steady presence, its unassuming generosity.

A friend recently shared a poem called Stone by David Whyte. Reading it again, these lines stop me:

“…stone like this, the way it holds you, gives you
not a way forward but a doorway in, staunches
your need to leave, becomes faithful by going nowhere…”

The patience of stone. How essential the long, slow breath of stone. A breath beyond language, beyond form.

 

Stone (Thobar Phádraig)

The face in the stone is a mirror looking into you.
You have gazed into the moving waters,
you have seen the slow light, in the sky
above Lough Inagh, beneath you, streams have flowed,
and rivers of earth have moved beneath your feet,
but you have never looked into the immovability
of stone like this, the way it holds you, gives you
not a way forward but a doorway in, staunches
your need to leave, becomes faithful by going nowhere,
something that wants you to stay here and look back,
be weathered by what comes to you, like the way you too
have travelled from so far away to be here, once reluctant
and now as solid and as here and as willing
to be touched as everything you have found.

~ David Whyte

 

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Comments

  1. Wendy Sarno

    February 28, 2018

    Extraordinary, Mary Lou! Your Resting Bison is indeed shimmering with life, such biodiversity you discover as you look closely. “This ancient rock, blending into the hillside, radiates life. It’s home to likely millions if not billions of spores and other microscopic creatures. As I sit next to the rock, I find myself, inexplicably, in tears, as I sense into its quiet steady presence, its unassuming generosity.” What a beautiful presence to be-friend. And David Whyte’s poem is perfect for this sense of the patience of stone. What an amazing teacher your Bison stone is.

    • Mary Lou van Schaik

      March 1, 2018

      Thank you, Wendy. Each time I sit with it, and put down my agenda of expectation, I learn something that teaches me about aliveness and presence. And yes, as David Whyte says, I’m “willing to be touched.”

  2. Mary Spike

    March 1, 2018

    Thank you. I love being reminded of the eternity of stone. And, I love thinking of the moss as Lilliputian. It also brings to mind the different varieties of time considered by the protagonist in Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel The Signature of All Things. “Moss Time” is ancient and very slow, yet still moves forward. Sometimes when I am frustrated with feeling that I am not moving forward very quickly, I look back on where I have been and realize that I have indeed been progressing…in moss time.

    • Mary Lou van Schaik

      March 1, 2018

      Dear Mary: Thank you for reminding me how important it is to give ourselves permission to move in slower time, to drink up the soul nutrients of ‘moss time.’ You may have come across this book: “Gathering Moss” by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a wonderful, eloquent and inspiring revelation of the world of moss and the lessons moss can teach we humans. And thanks for pointing me to Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, which I shall seek out.

  3. Janice Falls

    March 1, 2018

    Dear Mary Lou, I can picture you there with your Resting Bison, communing with the lichen, soaking up the presence of the stone. When I came to ‘The patience of stone. How essential the long, slow breath of stone.’, I felt my own breath release. Yes the patience of stone. Perhaps this is why I am rarely without one at hand.

    • Mary Lou van Schaik

      March 1, 2018

      Dear Jan: my coat and sweater pockets usually carry at least one pebble given to me by friends! My form of rosary beads….

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