We rock


It's gray here today but after several days of hard rain we're assured that at least of week of sunshine and temps in the high 70s are on the way. I find the gray depressing and since we moved here for the sun I'm a little put out that we're having an "unusual" wet spring. "Be equanimous" declared a friend's yoga teacher, and I try, I try. I find equanimity a lot easier, however, when the sun shines.

A slew of company passed through a few weeks ago, four sets in fewer than three weeks. The company and the yard have kept us busy, and kept me away from the writing I promised myself. But you must agree that having an empty dirt lot out the back door requires urgent action. And since we're doing the work ourselves, urgent action equals time consumed —it's not an excuse. Since this is desert country we're creating a xeriscape (low-water) yard with lots of native plants and rocks, including a dry creek that will emerge from the not-yet-built deck and disappear under the far fence. 

As a result of our need I've become rock enthralled; I see them everywhere. "Getting rocks" has become one of my favorite things to do, but I find it curious that even though we need thousands I still pick and choose as I pick them up. Why I pass over some and grasp at others—with little visible difference between them—is a mystery. 

The garden's future plants are no mystery, they are easily purchased at a nearby nursery. The rocks, however, require a lot of lifting and carrying, and that's after we've picked them off the ground and hauled them home. Yesterday each of us must have carried at least a hundred pounds that we'd picked up in the field where developers dump their land-clearing trash. It's a treasure trove of stones of all sizes and shapes, mostly volcanic. 

Here in the West volcano activity marks most of our history. The Native Americans were too smart to build monuments to themselves or their civilizations, and rest of us began arriving only 200 years ago (Fort Astoria, the first Oregon settlement, was built in 1811). This is the equivalent of less than a blink in the evolutionary timescale. 

As a fan of history I loved the grand and ancient ruins of Turkey and the prehistoric caves of France. It was comforting to be surrounded by these visible signs of our continuing. Here, where the wooden structures of pioneer towns are already disintegrating, I rely on the nearby mountains for that comforting sense of continuity. It is different, of course, for mountains go on with or without us, yet the spirit—and comfort—I receive from their presence feels the same. The volcanic rocks we carry home, and dig out of our own plot of dirt, are long on continuity. They will be here after we and our culture are sunk and forgotten. 

Many, many years ago I read an anecdote from poet and writer Gary Snyder that I've always loved. Unfortunately, I have not been able to track it down and can only paraphrase (forgive me). It went something like this: Snyder and a friend are hiking in the forest, pondering nature and life. He says to his friend, "You think these rocks notice the trees?" "Nah," says the friend, "they're just passing through."


*********

June 26

Thanks to Carol Bronstein for tracking down this Snyder reference. I'm not sure how she did it but she's also known as the Universal Connector and there's magic in her searches. And after all these years my memory wasn't too far off. . .


One night, when he [Welch] was still alive was sitting with me by a campfire outside under the pine trees and stars up around in the Sierra Nevada…& after a long while of silence, he said to me, “Gary, do you think the rocks pay attention to the trees?” and I said, “Why, I don’t know Lew. What are you driving at?” and he said, “Well, the trees are just passing through.” So, later I came up with this little poem: 
As the crickets’ soft autumn hum
is to us
so are we to the trees

as are they
to the rocks and the hills.