I love rocks. They are my favourite gifts. They whisper the finest truths. They are the best story keepers. When friends travel I ask them to return with rocks. As those I love have come to understand my rock language, I have been gifted with rocks from around the globe.
Rocks nestle in every room in my home: the kitchen. The bathrooms. The furnace room. The deck. The stairs. They sit on window-ledges and end table. They keep fine company alongside books. They are arranged in piles that, likely, only I understand. Deeply meaningful rocks pile by my bedside. Rocks that I have shared stories with rest on my dresser. They are in every room in my house. Some that loves have brought have cleared customs and are home here. Some are so large that I can curl up. Others, the ones I carry every day in my pocket, curling fingers around them to find strength and calm, to remember, and to know, are my dear ones.
Rocks have not always collected me, though.
17 years ago I left my marriage. And though that decision was absolutely the best for me and for my daughter, then I struggled to find my footing in the fog of recalibrating a new dream.
I felt lost.
It was the spring of that first year. My four year old daughter and I had just bought our first home. We were in the midst of painting, traveling back and forth every day from my parents to our home. As we drove the 110km one way, as my daughter slept, I cried silently.
Sometimes I would get out of the car and stand in the cold spring wind, and cry. I did not know how to reset.
I don’t even remember the lady’s name. I think I met her through grief counselling, but, honestly, I don’t remember. She was my mom’s age. I remember she lived in the city. She had stopped by our house. I hardly knew her. I thought it so odd.
She said she had a housewarming gift. She and I had met out front because I was not yet moved in. My car parked in front of hers on the street. She said she didn’t really want to see the house. She said the gift was for me more than for the house anyway. I remember I followed her around to the back of her car. She talked non-stop. Those days, I hardly spoke. The back of the car opened like a lid and she stepped back, then reached in. She had flats and flats of quart sealers and spoke about the craft projects she was going to start. There were dozens of plastic blags from having been shopping for supplies. She talked about all the places she had been, all the supplies she had found. She moved the bags, pushing the bulging plastic handles down as she searched.
I used to love to make things. I used to delight over quart sealers and candles too. Nothing. I remember the lurch in my stomach as I tried to care. My cheeks felt cold and I took a step back. I did not know how to simply stand there.
Then she handed me a sealer full of rocks.
“Here,” she said, “these are for you. I went out this morning and gathered them. There are 36. 36 exactly.”
She looked at me. She understood.
“Once a month take a rook from the jar and toss it. And while you do, give something away. Your anger, your fears. Tell a story to the rock and it will never share it with anyone. Your story will be safe.”
She turned and closed the hatch.
She turned back to me. “Cori do this. Once a month. You can do a couple for a while. Since it’s been six months. The gift isn’t the rocks. The gift is that by the time the rocks are all gone, you will no longer need them.”
I know I looked at her. I know.
Anything for a solution. No longer need them
Once rock at a time…
Before she got into her car, she patted the jar deeper into my hands.
One rock at a time. 36 rocks.
That fourth toss changed everything. I was standing in the rain at the lookout near my parents’ cabin. I threw the rock hard, I screamed harder, so loudly that my body hurt. That was the first time I had made a sound from pain since I had left.
Slowlying I began to toss rocks.
After a while I found a deliberateness in each toss. After a while, I began to save my tosses for when I needed them. Long before the three years the tossing had turned into giving. After a while, I saw giving rocks everywhere I went.
Soon, kind-filled rocks began to find their way to me.
Years and years tipped-toed past and soon, only a few jar rocks remained. A long while ago, the quart sealer had been replaced with a much smaller one, tossing replaced with transitions, my degree, Jessy Lee’s graduation, Dad’s stroke, my thesis, so many rocks, yet one rock remained.
My one rock. One.
I almost set that rock a few times. Once, I even took it out of the jar and put it in my pocket. I put it back though. I never found cause to set it down.
I think, I have always known what I need to do with that rock.