Rows of rock cairns, Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park

Rows of rock cairns, Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park

by Jane Hirschfield, from Given Sugar, Given Salt

What appears to be stubbornness,
refusal, or interruption,
is to it a simple privacy.  It broods
its one thought like a quail her clutch of eggs.

Mosses and lichens
listen outside the locked door.
Stars turn the length of one winter, then the next.

Rocks fill their own shadows without hesitation,
and do not question silence,
however long.
Nor are they discomforted by cold, by rain, by heat.

The work of a rock is to ponder whatever is:
an act that looks singly like prayer,
but is not prayer.

As for this boulder,
its meditations are slow but complete.

Someday, its thinking worn out, it will be
carried away by an ant.
Mystrium camille,
perhaps, caught in some equally diligent,
equally single pursuit of a thought of her own.



The flat, smooth, water-rounded pebbles and rocks on the beaches of Washington’s Pacific coast seem to inspire Andy Goldsworthy-ish mini-sculptures.  I often find cairns, those piles of gradually smaller and smaller stones precariously balanced.  Part of their appeal is their ephemeral nature, waiting to be toppled by tide or wind or passersby.

My sister and her husband collect heart-shaped stones.  I seem incapable of walking a beach without picking up at least one favorite rock or stone to take home.  On this day, I found irresistible this dimpled rock that felt good in my hand and pocket:


And I added my own Andy Goldsworthy-inspired rock art to the Rialto Beach landscape.  It was likely dismantled by the next incoming tide, but I couldn’t wait around to witness its destruction.




Water and Stone

September 5, 2013

Circle of stones

Circle of stones

“What’s softest in the world
rushes and runs
over what’s hardest in the world.
The immaterial
the impenetrable.
So I know the good in not doing.
The wordless teaching,
the profit in not doing —
not many people understand it.

— Ursula Le Guin, “Water and Stone,” from Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching:  A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way

Watercolor sketch of circle of stones

Watercolor sketch of circle of stones

This post is dedicated to Bonnie and Mike and circles of friends.