Water in a Stone

Water in a Stone

Water in a Stone

I’ve long had a fascination for rocks; indeed, I considered studying geology for A level. I’ve been collecting rocks, fossils, crystals and gemstones for a long time now. I started when I was about nine or ten, becoming entranced by the cat’s-eye effect (chatoyance) of the semi precious stone Tiger’s Eye, and buying several pieces of the polished gem, one to wear as a pendant I still wear occasionally today.

It wasn’t until I was about fifteen and was visiting the Natural History Museum in Frankfurt that I really got hooked. One exhibit was a piece of rock crystal that was about the size of a small car. I remember walking round and round the massive rock, astounded that such a thing existed. The museum gift shop sold cheap gemstone jewellery and I found myself a piece of polished clear quartz set as a pendant. I have it still.

The Greeks thought rock crystal was ice that had frozen so hard it could never be thawed; in a way, they were right. Quartz does start out liquid, deep in the earth, but it’s only over time that it solidifies, growing into fabulous forms that are exquisitely lovely.

For me, any rock is a wonderful mystery: where did it come from, what is it made of, how did it get where it is today? I can walk almost any beach and find you a fossil. I pick up stones everywhere, and it occurred to me that I’m probably looking for the philosopher’s stone. I’ve dreamed about stones doing magical, wonderful things, and I meditate with them, often placing certain crystals on my forehead and holding them in my hands as I contemplate deep and impenetrable matters (I often fall asleep, to put that into perspective!). On one occasion, somehow or other I caused a crystal balanced on my forehead to light up from within, witnessed by one reliable source.

I’ve got boxes of rocks, ones that friends have sent me from special places they have visited, and dozens of crystals of various sorts, sizes and colours. There is something innately pleasing to me, at the very least, in the order and beauty of crystals; the fact that they form, either over aeons or spontaneously in milliseconds (no one is quite sure; some have been seen to grow slowly, others leap into being) regular, geometrically perfect solids is a sort of comfort to me. When I go to Austria, the hotel I usually stay at has a cabinet of fossils and rocks for sale; I’ve bought several, including a trilobite now named Josef after the hotelier. Like any collector, my collection is never going to be complete. There will always be something different to look out for.

I’ve not mentioned much the whole “woo woo” factor, because while I do believe there is something to it, it’s not something I really want to go into here. There is too much room for ridicule. Suffice it to say that I believe that rocks can be a source of healing.

Anyway, on a day trip to Ely a month or two back, I visited a stall on the market there that I’ve known for many years. She usually has unusual things, and isn’t extortionate in terms of prices. I spotted a couple of nice little things and one reasonably sized double terminated* quartz piece ( *it comes to a point at both ends), and liked it. It had a brilliant clarity and beauty that drew me. A few weeks after buying it, I spotted something very unusual indeed.

Inside the crystal was a bubble of liquid that moved when you turned the stone. Enhydros are quartz (and other stones) that contain water (or other liquids) from the time when the stone was forming. Sold as such, they’re fairly pricey; not precisely rare but unusual. A magnifying glass has shown there are other bubbles within the matrix of the rock; imagine the moving bubble of a spirit level and that’s not dissimilar.

Given the level of frozen-ness of my inner spirit and my life, and the fear that all the bubbling-over of images, ideas and stories might have dried up, finding this tiny reservoir of ancient, forgotten water deep inside a rock, is to me a symbol that perhaps buried so far down that I can’t even feel it, the water of life still shines.




Tumbling through life ~ a survival guide

Tumbling through life ~ a survival guide

I have a small confession to make.

I love rocks.

Rocks, crystals, gemstones, fossils, pebbles. Any size, any shape. I’ve been passionate about rocks since I was a kid. I started collecting tumble polished semi-precious stones when I was about ten years old. The sight of a quartz point the size of an Aga in the natural history museum in Frankfurt when I was fourteen made me a lover of crystals. I’m not bothered by precious stones for their value, or even their alleged beauty because to me sparkling diamonds are not terribly interesting. Properly cut gems seem oddly homogenised and for all the glitter, rather dull. Until you get to the jaw-droppingly massive ones, they all look the same.

I have an eye for fossils too; take me field-walking and I’ll probably find you one within the hour. A trip to a beach usually results in me finding at least one or two small ones.

There’s something sensual about polished stones that I cannot resist. The recent popularity of so-called palm stones, (that is smoothly shaped and slightly flattened rocks, polished to a high sheen and often with a shallow indent in the middle that just invites the thumb to caress it) meant that larger numbers of beautiful stones became available for quite reasonable prices.

Natural crystal formations draw me too; I have a lot of clear quartz points in many sizes and shapes. I have jewellery made of stones, some I have made myself.

I’m a bit of an addict or obsessive when it comes to the mineral kingdom. There is great beauty in even the simplest of stones, and one excellent way to ground the jittery nerves is to hold and meditate on a rock.

Ten years ago I was given a stone polisher. This is a very basic device of a motorised pair of spindles that turn a small drum you fill with a mixture of different sizes of stone along with graded grits and polish and water, to mimic the polishing action of the sea. I’ve not used it a great deal, even though I’d always wanted to have one. It takes weeks of tumbling to turn rough rocks into smooth, shining ones; weeks of patient inspecting, changing the level of grit, topping up water, washing away the sludge. You also have to select your stones very carefully. All the stones need to be of about the same level of hardness on Moh’s scale.

This is for a good reason. Put a softer stone like amber in amid quartzite and you will destroy the amber without benefiting the quartzite in the slightest. The stones tumble and churn against each other, and the motion along with the water and the grit are what smooth each stone. Put one stone in alone and it will probably never polish; it needs other rocks to rub against. Put all the same size in and the polishing is uneven. But the key seems to be a mix of stones of the same hardness but of different sizes and shapes.

And some stones must never be put in a tumbler. Amber, opals and various other stones that have a high water content that make them soft are destroyed by the process and must be polished by hand.

It occurred to me that this is a metaphor for the growth of a human soul, its progression through life. Some people are energised and refined by the rough and tumble of life with lots of others around them, becoming polished and smoothed by the interaction with others. Some only thrive if those others are of the same resilience as themselves. Others, like diamonds, cannot be affected much by the rubbing and tumbling of others around them. Diamonds in the rough are unremarkable stones, despite their extreme hardness; their nature is such that they will crush others while their own surface remains untouched. Only by being split open with immense skill by something of the same or greater strength can reveal their shining facets. Some people however are only ever going to be damaged by constant unremitting tumbling around with others.

I think people are like this. Introverts are like amber or opal, needing gentle individual care to bring out their beauty without crushing them to useless powder. Extroverts are like jaspers and quartzes, needing a mix of others to polish them and to polish others in return. And there are some who, like diamonds, need to be fractured, cut and polished by very individual attention to show the world the beauty hiding behind unprepossessing faces.

What kind of rock are you?

Light and Dark

I have been wanting to put a photo up of this stone for ages. I found it some years ago, on the Gower Peninsula in South Wales, in a tiny little cove known as Ram’s Grove. It’s coincidentally pretty close to the cave where the burial of a Neanderthal body took place, the so-called Red Lady of Paviland(it was actually a man!) It’s one of the oldest known human burials, where ritual took place using red ochre and flowering plants.

The time I found this stone, we were camping  a few miles away and had slipped down at the end of the day for a paddle. The tide was coming in quite fast and my husband spotted a large boulder with the very clear sign on it, of a white image embedded in black rock. I managed a quick and rather fuzzy picture of it before the tide covered it. I was very taken with it as it was an almost perfect natural yin-yang sign, but it was a massive boulder, embedded deeply among other rocks. I prayed out loud, that I might find a similar stone that I could take home with me and when I finished those words, I glanced down and by my feet was the stone above. I nearly fell over. I was shocked. So seldom are prayers answered THAT fast, after all.

I’ve kept it close ever since as a talisman and as a reminder that in light there is always dark and in dark there is always light, and also that just sometimes, you do get what you ask for in life, that prayer does work and finally, that God has a rather whimsical sense of humour.