Monday, September 06, 2010

Stones (or, The Way Things Fit Together)

A stranger handed me two polished stones today. One was in the shape of an arrow; the other, a heart.

When I was a child I used to collect rocks. I would walk in the river valley and local parks and pick up rocks that looked colourful or had an interesting shape. Sometimes I would rub a small stone or two against sandpaper to smooth it out. These mementos of my childhood are somewhere in a rusting tin can in the garage.

Today was like any other day. I had to go take some photos for work and grab something to eat, then ended up spending time with several different groups of friends along the way while visiting some river valley parks. At the last minute, I remembered I needed to grab a few things at a drugstore. I told my friend who was driving which store I wanted. Instead of going to the one closer to our homes, we went to a different one about halfway between the park we were coming from and our neighbourhood.

I picked out the items I wanted and followed my friend into the magazine aisle. Let me add that I rarely check the books and magazines in this particular store, but today I decided I wanted to buy a copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and this was where I was going to get it.

While I was browsing, and older gentleman asked me about the sticks I had dangling from my backpack. I explained that they were juggling sticks, how they are used, and how I entertain kids with them at parks and parties. Seeming amused by my juggling exploits, he reached into his pocket and pulled out several polished stones. He invited me and my friend to pick one each. I picked a limestone and quartz composite that is white with black flecks, and is in a shape resembling an arrow.

The man went into detail about how he collects stones and showed us other specimens from his pockets and around his neck, both from the river valley and beyond, in other parts of Canada. Some were actual semi-precious gemstones like amethyst and jade. He gave us tips where to find some good rocks when the river gets lower.

I commented that some of his stones looked like worry stones, and he said that was how he used them at times. I told him how I broke a worry stone once (and it was true - my anxiety-ridden self rubbed that poor stone until it was translucent and snapped). He gave me another stone that he said won't do that. Flat on one side, rounded on the other, when I took a closer look at it later I noticed it looks like a heart.

An arrow and a heart, slightly misshapen, given to me by someone who would only reluctantly tell me his first name. As I held those stones, I was taken back to those more innocent days of collecting rocks when I was a kid. And I ponder how these shapes and textures and the objects they represent reflect my life now. Finally, I look back at the day and how every event and every choice that was made, directly or indirectly put me in the path of this unexpected gift - a profound moment in my life that has left me with something tangible to ponder.

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