Got Stones: A collectors story

 

After completing the blog about “God the Rock, On being chips off the old Rock”, I remembered my fascination with another kind of “chips”: stones.  I don’t remember when I started collecting them, but I have been accumulating them for nearly fifty years.  In Southern Michigan, where we lived for eighteen years, soils have an abundance of stones.  The last glacier ground the rocks under tons of ice as it retreating north, smoothing many stones.

IMG_3445
Bread loaf stones

Our farmer friend, Lew Stoll, knew I collected round smooth stones. He had been finding me stones.  Some of them bread-loaf size.  But most of that size went to wife Ruth’s flower garden.  After a few years, stones turned up less frequently in his fields.  I attributed this to three things.  First, perhaps he had plowed up most of them.  Second, his tractors were getting bigger which made seeing the stones harder.  Third, maybe his eyesight was getting poorer.

Gardening brought me into frequent contact with glacial rocks and small stones.  Every spring, due to freezing and thawing, more stones appeared in our Michigan garden.   I made a sifter to remove some them from the garden soil.  The stones were dumped in our unpaved, hundred-foot-long driveway.  Over winter and into the spring stones disappeared into the driveway.   Stones appeared in the garden each year, after disappearing from the drive….  A natural cycle?  I had a notion to spray paint some of the stones we put in the drive to see if they would reappear in the garden.

IMG_3456Many people have contributed stones to our collection.  We wish we would have taken pictures as they were added.  When we moved from Michigan to Virginia I filled a five-gallon bucket with my favorite stones.  As if Virginia needed more stones….

In our travels, we have seen many round and flat smooth stones.  Collecting them has provided us with some challenges (is it legal to pick them up here?) and unusual experiences (is it safe to stop here?)  While visiting Nova Scotia we had collected only a few stones from a sea-shore to put in our luggage.  To save space Julia put one special stone in the toe of a shoe. Going checked through customs, a scanner showed something strange in the shoe.  (This was before 9/11.)  Julia was anxious about what would happen when she opened the suitcase and took out her shoe.  But, the inspector wasn’t interested in stones.

IMG_3444Cedar Valley in central Texas, has quarries with lovely yellow-tan sandstone.   We were looking along the roadside for a sample and debating the wisdom (legality?) of picking up a stone from the berm. We wanted to collect some stones for us and for our friend’s water garden. As we round a curve, there on the road was a head-sized stone, plus another smaller one, probably fallen from the truck we had just pulled off the road to let pass us.  So, being public-minded citizens, we pulled over and saved someone’s vehicle from a damaged tire by removing the rocks from the road—and into our trunk. Further west on that trip, where the sandstone was red, we could not find a roadside that required our clean-up assistance. So, we stopped at a landscaping business.  They only sold stones in three-foot by four-foot bundles.  When we told the owner that we only want one stone, he gave us a dinner-plate-sized “stepping stone” rock which looked a bit like the state of Texas.

In several states, we provided help to road crews by stopping along the highway and finding rocks in danger of sliding toward the roadway. We wanted to remove them before they could be pushed closer to the pavement.  Did the road crew appreciated our help?  Usually no one was coming our way when we picked up the rocks (we checked).  So, our friends got more rocks for around their fish ponds.

Slab Road crosses and dams Dry River above Hinton, Va.  While the River may be Dry in parts of the year, spring rains roil and churn the stones down the mountain and through Rawley Springs to where the Slab slows them and stops some.  The Slab has been deadly in the spring.  Some of our stepping-stones came from Dry River.  During the 1985 flood in the Shenandoah Valley (and West Virginia valleys), the Virginia road commission asked people to pick up rocks and stones which had washed onto roads and bridges by the flood.  We are the beneficiaries of that flood.

IMG_3450Our church group enjoyed a retreat at a restored farmhouse back up a valley on the Virginia/West Virginia border near the town of Bergton. There were several rock piles on the property and a fence row lined with rocks.  Those piles looked to be a good source of “stepping stones” to complete our landscaping project.    Several times we walked around the stone piles but could not find rocks of the right size. Later we wondered if the farmer and family had picked up the bigger stones first.  As time went on, they had picked up all the big ones.  All we could see were the smaller ones added last.  The possibility of snakes and the certainty of hard work stopped us from testing this theory.

IMG_3441Now our granddaughter has begun a collection at her home in Waco, TX.  Some of our stones from Michigan, Virginia and other areas we are passing on to her.

stonesLineLone

ode to a pet rock

Rough times, rubbings,

Sand scoured, wave buffed

Grinding fellow stones.

Hard center

Christ solid;

Smooth, polished rock.

 

On being chips off the Old Rock

On a recent Sunday morning, we sang a chorus calling God a rock.  That surprised me.  I recalled the satisfaction my father expressed at not having to farm around rocks after he moved from Pennsylvania to Iowa.  The deep sandy loam soils of Iowa and Illinois where I grew up yielded few rocks.  Visits to relatives in the east left me wondering why people tried to farm or garden around the rocky interferences common there.  Rocks were what stuck up out of fields making plowing and harvesting difficult.  Later, living in southern Michigan, I often found fist-sized rocks, even some basketball sized rocks ground smooth and round and spit out by the retreating glaciers. They were a nuisance to gardening. I built a sifter to remove the rocks/stones from the garden soil.  I did enjoy collecting round smooth rocks and took a bucket of rocks with me when we moved to Virginia (as if Virginia needed more rocks).  But, calling God a rock, “an impediment to agricultural activity” seemed unworshipful.

I remembered the wise man built his house on the rock and the stories of David hiding in the rock (caves).  Of course, I had read about the Dead Sea Scrolls protected and preserved in “the rock”.  Maybe I was not understanding the Biblical metaphor, rock.

What images does the phrase “God the rock” suggest to you?  A pickup sized chunk of granite with wheels (“buy our truck”, “built like a rock” the ads said)?  Jesus the cornerstone? *  But Jesus said the wise man built his house on the rock, not on a cornerstone.  Can distinguishing between these images expand our perception of God?

A geological map of Palestine, shows the Biblical land to be a jumble of rock between the Mediterranean and the Jordan.  Swampy land between the sea and the hill country on the west and the Jordan River swamps to the east and the shifting sands of the Negev to the south contrasted with the solid rock of the central highlands.  Several commentaries tracing the origin of the Hebrew for “rock”, show it and “mountain” may be interchangeable.

Then I read:

He said: “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior– from violent men you save me.  2 Samuel 22:2

God, the Rock.  God’s people in Palestine did not think of God as an obstruction to farming and gardening or sign of eroded farmland!

be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.  Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Psalms 31:2, 3

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave more a firm place to stand.        Psalms 40:2

But the LORD has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.  Psalms 94:22

A place of strength, safety, protection, a “firm place to stand”.

He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.  Psalms 62:2

Permanence and security; a cool place in a hot land:

Each man will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.  Isaiah 32:2

What God is for us, we are to be for others.

Isaiah encourages us to be a “chip off the Old Rock”:

“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; Isaiah 51:1

They drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 

(1 Corinthians 10:4)

To learn what the new nature of the Rock is, we turn to Jesus.  But not only is he our security, refuge, our strength,

As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (Romans 9:33; see Isaiah 8:14; 28:16)

When we turn to God,

They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts; he made water flow for them from the rock; he split the rock and water gushed out. (Isaiah 48:21)

He made him ride on the heights of the land and fed him with the fruit of the fields. He nourished him with honey from the rock, and with oil from the flinty crag, (Deuteronomy 32:13)

Nourishment, refreshing water, security, permanence, refuge.  Where do we find these?  In the ROCK.

__________________________

ode to a pet rock

Rough times, rubbings

Sand scoured, wave buffed

Grinding fellow stones

Hard center

Christ solid;

Smooth, polished rock.

 

        *(In an earlier essay I sought to clarify the “cornerstone” image from the world of construction.  I pursued that topic when I came across a definition of cornerstone as “a largely ornamental architectural feature”.  I will post that essay later.)