Friday, January 14, 2011

Small Stone Mother


Loyal blog readers will remember that I love interesting rocks, especially beach rocks, and will recall how happy I was when a friend sent me some beach pebbles a few months ago. You can imagine my delight, then, when today's mail brought an unexpected package from Tiel Ansari in Oregon, with one of her beautiful poems, a lovely white beach pebble, and the rock shown above.

That rock looks like a goddess figure to me. Does it to you?

I have a history, not only with stones, but with stone mothers. One of my very favorite places is Pyramid Lake here in Nevada, which features this famous Stone Mother; according to legend, her tears over the fragmentation of her family became the saline waters of the lake.

During the summer of 2005, my sister and I took a road trip through central Nevada, to research one of the books I'm still writing. Just past Austin, we stopped to explore the Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area. Along with cool petroglyphs, we found a figure that immediately looked to me like another stone mother. (I may have been inclined to look for female figures by the fact that many of the petroglyphs depict female genitalia.) My sister took this photo of me standing next to the rock: can you see the Stone Mother's face above me? It's so clear to me when I look at it. (And oh, if I only I were that slim now! But I digress.)

When I saw the Hickison Stone Mother, I'd immediately thought, "I should make some kind of offering." I became absorbed in exploring the landscape, though, and didn't. I was wearing a pair of turquoise earrings my mother had sent West with my sister as a gift for me. After hiking around the park for an hour or two, we went back to the car, and I discovered that one of my earrings was gone. The Stone Mother had taken her offering!

Now I feel as if the Stone Mothers of the world, via Tiel, have made an offering back to me. This Small Stone Mother is ideally suited to wilderness adventures because she has an eye in the middle of her back. No one can sneak up on her, and she sees the past clearly, so she can't be fooled about causes and motivations.

Ever the lady, however, she's also done her hair up in a swirling topknot.

I put my Small Stone Mother in my pocket and headed off to my fiddle lesson, where I'm learning Liz Carroll's beautiful (and haunting, fittingly enough) tune "The Ghost," the first tune in this set. Charlene was a geology major in college, and her husband Josh is getting his masters in geology here at UNR, so I showed Charlene the rock.

She thought it was very cool, and immediately ran with it into Josh's study to show it to him. He grabbed a magnifying glass and we all piled into the bathroom, which has the brightest lights in the house, so he could examine it. He and Charlene turned it back and forth, speaking incomprehensible geologese, until I said, "Hey, that swirl on the top: isn't that a fossilized shell?"

Josh looked at the top and said, "Yes! That's exactly what it is." He explained that the Small Stone Mother is actually half of a gastropod shell (a gastropod is any critter like a snail) which got filled in with stone; the white stripes on the rock are the remaining curves of the shell, and the face in front and eye in back are glimpses of the shell. "Whenever you see curves like that one on top," he said, "you're looking at something biological, not something geological." But of course, the Small Stone Mother is now both.

I'll keep her in my purse, with my cross rock, for luck and guidance. This is why my purse is so heavy: I'm literally lugging rocks around.

Tiel, thank you so much!

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