Today we head out and before I’ve gone 50 yards I start eying the stones that lie on top of the soil. I have forgotten to bring a cloth bag to carry them home for my various rocky projects, and anyway, I don’t want to pick them up until I’m on my way back. Ahead, Ursula begins to dig. She has found the den of a field mouse or perhaps a mole. She works busily, throwing a splash of dirt up behind her. The wind picks up, and I dig my hands deeper into my pockets. I have forgotten my gloves, too.
My grandmother used to tell a story about how she went out into the corn as a child and got turned around. Eventually she found a big boulder in the corner of the field and climbed on top of it to wait for her father. He saw her and came for her on horseback. I must have heard that story 10 times before it hit me that it happened right here on this very farm.
“Grandma,” I asked. “Where is that boulder now?” The story happened in that magical pre-automobile country; where the roads were paved with mud; where corn was seeded with a foot between each plant; where the fields were fenced with hedgerows of Osage Orange and Multiflora Rose; where the barn was full of animals: a dairy cow, a horse named Bunker and his Billy goat friend, some chickens. To suddenly realize that this story happened in my own back yard was to connect that magical country with the present, that little girl waiting on the boulder with my own grandmother. But I’ve never seen a boulder on the farm.
Grandma waved vaguely. “Over there,” she said. “In the corner by the Benson Timber.”
“But Grandma,” I persisted. “There’s no boulder there.”
She looked surprised. “Why, this whole country hereabouts was filled with boulders when I was a girl.”
“Then, what happened to them?” I asked.
She leaned back and looked over her glasses at me. “Dynamite,” she said, as if it were obvious.
Of course. What else? She told me that a man made his living driving all over the county blowing up boulders.
Now I am crossing the grass waterway. Soon I’ll turn back and pick up a few stray rocks from that long ago explosion. I pick up a sand colored shot put, and then see a small piece of flint. I put that in my pocket. I pick up a few more stones to cradle in my arms, muddying my coat, but then discard one for a lovely, brownish burgundy stone. In this way, I make my way back to the yard, shoulders aching, and finally dump the stones in a pile next to my spiral rock garden. The sky is getting heavier, and a few tiny snowflakes swirl down around me. I call the dogs, and go inside to cuddle with a kitten until time to start supper.
Gather Beauty; Ignite Peace; Blessed Be.
Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland, near White Heath. She is interested in issues of ecology and her own back yard