Messing Around With Rocks
By Gabrielle Blair
“There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” said the Water Rat to Mole in Kenneth Grahame’s timeless children’s book The Wind in the Willows published in 1908. One is never too old to enjoy this story.
Being a person who prefers to be on dry land than on water, there’s nothing quite as much fun as simply messing around with rocks. In the summer when we return to Canada from Ajijic, we spend three months in a cabin in Quebec beside a pristine lake. Courtesy of the last Ice Age that sent tons of ice scraping its way down from the Pole, there is no shortage of rocks of all shapes, sizes and colours for a “rockaphile” like me to mess with.
Having exhausted the possibility of building inukshuks around the cabin to ward off evil spirits, I decided to try my hand at something more creative. A flat piece of clay-like ground presented the perfect place to do a rock installation and I settled on a heart shape. Wandering along the shore with a bucket, like a child searching for shells at the seaside, I collected larger, flat rocks, set on edge, to outline the heart.
Once the shape and size was established, I chose smaller rocks and pebbles with as much variety of texture and color as I could find and set them into the clay, working from the outside into the centre, like a snail tracing the pattern of the heart. Using stones of decreasing size, I ended with tiny pebbles, like jewels.
Finally, a beautiful, fifteen inch high, rose-quartz rock, shaped like a pyramid became the centre-piece to my rock-heart installation that has a circumference of fourteen feet and that I proudly show to the occasional visitor who happens to drop by.
Recently I made a new friend, Sandi from Florida, to whom I sent a photo of the rock-heart. She replied with a story of her own about a ‘rockaphile.’ With her permission, I share it with you: “My paternal grandparents lived in Georgia. Their front door opened into the family room in which there was a big fireplace constructed out of rocks, the average being roughly dinner-plate size. My grandfather’s idea of treasuring the places he’d visited in the U.S. was to collect a rock from every state, and there was one representing each, excepting Hawaii. He cheated a bit and ordered some by mail. Oh, how I adored sitting on his knee as a little girl and having him point out to me the various rocks and which state he had obtained them from.
He had a photographic memory and knew the origin of each one without a moment of hesitation. That was my first introduction to the various states and geography of America. In my mind I can still see him point straight ahead across the room and say, ‘Now that stone to the left of the hearth came from Michigan. The darker one under it is from California, and the rock directly above the mantle is from the mountains of Tennessee’ and so on. After my grandparents died, the family who bought the house was made aware of the state rocks, but by then I had moved away and after the sale I didn’t go back to see the house or fireplace. The new owners are a family with three young children and I often wonder if their mom and dad have told them about the fireplace rocks.”
When I think of my rock-heart installation, I wonder if someone else will take care of it when we no longer spend our summers in the cabin. Will they treasure it, clean the debris and replace the stones that have sunk into the clay? And will they admire the jewel-like pebbles and shiny, rose-quartz centre-piece?
Ed. Note: Gabrielle is a South African who made Canada her home during the Apartheid Era. She and her husband divide their time between living in an Ontario cottage and a remote cabin in Quebec during the summer and Ajijic in the winter. As a former professional ballet dancer, she now finds her creative outlet in writing poetry and reflections on the world around her.