I love rocks. Stones, earth, dirt, sand, gravel — it doesn’t matter. I love rocks in every form. Walking along a gravel road, a pretty pebble protrudes and catches my eye, and I crouch down to pick it up and examine it further…sometimes I keep it, sometimes I put it back when I’m done. I just like to hold it and momentarily absorb its energy; listen to what it has to say.
One of my earliest experiences with rocks was getting a pre-compiled rock collection as a child. I was fascinated by all the different colors, shapes, names, the way the rocks felt in my hand. Even though I didn’t get to choose which rocks were in my collection, I appreciated each and every one for its own special attributes.
In those days, I lived in a Chicago suburb and a favorite pastime was visiting a construction area near our apartment and crunching around on the gravel piles. I would fantasize that I was somewhere else, in a dusty and dangerous desert environment; I remember the sun beating down on my back as I pretended I had a purpose there — I was on a mission!
Even though it was hot and, well, rocky, I got some strange comfort in being there. It is funny because looking back, it really reminds me of a lot of places I’ve been in Arizona. Somehow even back then, before I had an inkling of the places my future self would visit, something within me was already identifying with their landscapes.
Here in Arizona, especially in the desert-y Phoenix area, I love to hike. The “rock piles” in the Valley are significantly larger than those of my childhood, but it’s still all about the rock under my feet. The construction piles of my past were mini Camelback Mountains, rife with loose granite gravel. But the mountain I feel a real affinity for is Squaw (Piestewa) Peak. I love that mountain. It has a life of its own — its own personality. I get a strange satisfaction each time I crunch my way up it and back down again, no matter how many times I climb it. I feel like I’m connecting to the earth and chipping away at something substantial — sinking my proverbial teeth in — with each solid step. It is extremely fulﬁlling.
Sometimes I just stand against an outcrop and feel the rock against me, and I feel so connected to it. It’s as if by standing there long enough in contact with the rock (the more surface area the better), I might start to absorb some ancient wisdom from the depths of the mountain. Recently, I began picking up a rock from the top every time I hike up because the whole process represents something to me that’s so much more than just hiking a mountain.
Sedona is an especially good place for lying on rocks (or rock formations) and for picking up cool and exceptionally charismatic rocks. There’s a different feel to those rocks (unrelated — at least I think — to the supposed vortices in the vicinity) but Sedona’s stones are just as precious to me as the rocks I pick up in other locales.
I pick up rocks wherever I go. In Alaska, I find smooth and shiny rocks of every color on the shores, and there are dark mossy rocks in the woods. In New Mexico I’ve seen huge mounds of pock-marked, black volcanic rock that feel like loofah or sandpaper. Smooth, white and cream-colored oval rocks, almost egg-like, mixed with polished glassy, translucent pebbles abound on the California shore. In Utah, rough, scratchy sandstone in ochres and yellows. A river bank full of every color, texture, type and size of rock I have ever seen, all mixed together. (I was mesmerized and sat there for hours!)
I pick up rocks because I like their look, but also their messages, their stories. The only problem is that once I bring them home I don’t exactly know what to do with them, and often forget what’s what. I have piles of rocks in drawers, in containers, on display. Unfortunately, when it comes right down to it, you can only have so many rocks lying around your house.
But then again, maybe there’s always room for one more…
Unbeknownst to me at the time of this writing, my husband and I would soon add the most precious stone of all to our collection. Our daughter Petra (which means “rock” or “stone”) was born on June 8th, 2013.