Today I noticed the white water bowl on the big flat rock in front of our Ganesh statue was in need of cleaning, so I brought the bowl to the kitchen sink, dumped out the seven stones I’ve kept in the bowl for a couple years, washed the bowl, and was about to wash the stones, too, when I thought, Time to return these stones to the ocean.
So I put the stones in a bag to take with me on my next trip to the beach where I will scatter the stones along the shore, thus doing the opposite of what I did for most of my life until I started returning stones to their source.
And when those seven stones are reunited with the ocean, I will have set free all the stones I’ve ever collected save for five, two of which are little pocket stones. Of the larger three, one is a shard of obsidian I submerged in the Ganesh bowl, and another is a rock I found when I first moved to Mendocino, a big heavy perfectly flat stone we keep on a coffee table in the living room to use for a coaster and to keep the table from floating away. The third kept stone is a roughly diamond-shaped flat stone the size of a big human hand that serves as a coaster on my computer table.
I started collecting stones when I was a little kid, as many kids do, and I kept on collecting them into adulthood, as many adults do. Over time I accumulated a great many stones ranging from the size of a button to the size of a football. I got rid of many of the stones here and there along my way, collected many more, and when I moved to Berkeley from Sacramento in 1995, I transported with me three large boxes full of stones.
When I moved from Berkeley to Mendocino in 2006, I gave away some of my stones and threw a whole bunch into San Francisco Bay. However, upon my arrival in Mendocino, I discovered I’d landed in beach rock heaven, and greedily collected hundreds more stones, who, of course, demanded space on tables and desks and shelves – magnificent dust collectors.
Then a few years ago, while cleaning my office and rearranging the furniture, I was confronted by five large bowls full of stones sitting on tables and shelves, as well as dozens of stones living on my two desks; and I had an epiphany: time to integrate some of these stones into the rock wall bordering our deck and return most of the others to the ocean.
That’s when I put seven of my favorite stones in the Ganesh bowl, fit a dozen or so of the larger rocks into the rock wall, and took the rest of my stones to the beach where I dumped them in a big pile on the sand close to the water where I knew the tide would disperse them.
My two pocket stones are small and round, one for each of the front pockets of my pants. These carrying stones are a source of comfort to me, though I rarely think about them unless I’m anxious about something. Then I might hold one or both of them to facilitate my prayers to the unseen ones. I suppose one day I might find other stones to replace my pocket stones, though I don’t intend to accumulate more stones for any other purpose.
I think collecting stones was my way of trying to bring wild nature home with me. Yet I’ve come to feel if I’m not going to pay attention to the stones every day, each individual one of them, it isn’t kind of me to deprive them of their exciting lives on the wild shore.