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We, like the stone, are being pummeled into a different form during this hard year

I am hiking along the William Stafford/Kincaid Curlicue Corridor. I stop to pick up a palm-sized gray stone that asks me to notice it. The stone has weight. It feels solid, grounded, something I can hold tightly. It is the flower of an ancient volcano and shows its heritage in its flow banding. I know that since prehistoric times all cultures have treasured stones and carried them for calm, protection and healing. I feel that calm as I wrap my fingers around the weight. The rock feels like something permanent in this year of change. But that permanence is deceptive.

My daughter, Anne, had a box of stones in her childhood. Each rock held a memory. There was a heart-shaped limestone gathered from a gravel bar on a family float trip down the Merrimac River. A small piece of granite captured a memorable night atop Cadillac Mountain. There were colorful pieces of sea glass from Cape Cod. She knew where each stone was found and could relive the moment by holding the rock. The stone gave permanence to her memories. I think of her as I stop at the polished basalt stones further along my hike. They hold snippets of William Stafford's poetry. Those rocks too are used to anchor a fleeting thought and experience with permanence.

But stones are not permanent, thus the deception. They are part of ancient systems and have been tumbled, shifted, dropped and rearranged. They have withstood years of abrasion, freeze and thaw. Perhaps the word "constancy" would be a better descriptor of the rock I hold than "permanence." Those words have different meanings to me. Constancy implies an ability to not blow away in the wind, an internal force that stays steady as the external changes. Permanence implies no change.

We, like the stone, are being pummeled into a different form during this hard year. In one of Stafford's poems, he says, "Now I know why people … carry around magic emblems (rocks) … the world speaks. The world speaks everything to us. It is our only friend." In nature, in rocks, we find solitude and silence and a sense of harmony and peace. This is why they are placed in Japanese gardens and why boulders and monolithic basalt stones and even benches made of stone have been placed along this hiking trail. One stone bench invites me to sit a bit and be still. The seat is solid and comforting. I reflect that this solid calm was formed by constant change and upheaval.

Stafford's words: "the world speaks" repeat in my mind. And what I hear this stone bench say is that conflict and change aren't negative or positive. They just are. I fool myself if I think I can hold on to my old normal permanently. As I end this year, I want to hold on to constancy and to faithfulness in living my most sacred values. I want to look for the wisdom in others believing that by using our collective wisdom and creativity, we can reach a new level of calm and solidity. What we can be together is something I can wrap my fingers around and hold tightly. Perhaps I'll be like my daughter and keep this rock and its memory.

Cherie Dupuis is a member of the Jottings Group at The Lake Oswego Adult Community

Center.


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