By Claire Blatchford
We live on a dirt road in rural western Massachusetts and learned when we moved here how the power can be knocked out for hours, even days, by snow, ice, or wind storms. When first left in the dark my husband Ed and I found it romantic for one night. By the next morning we were ready to make our way down the hill to the nearest café with hot coffee and WiFi.
Ed then got a generator which he keeps in the garage and carries to an outlet on the back porch when needed. It weighs about 150 pounds, runs on gas, and sounds like a high power outboard motor boat hitched to the house. This generator provides us with electricity for the water pump in one bathroom and use of the dining room and kitchen. Maybe we can’t use our computers or the TV when it’s going, but it’s a lot easier to read, write, prepare meals and clean up afterwards. We’re accustomed to getting all the electrical power we want all at once so, when it’s not available all at once, the generator puts us back in touch pretty quickly with gratitude as well as with electricity. Gratitude for the conveniences we take for granted, which, in turn, make many connections possible.
Now I want to tell you about another generator we have in our house. It’s way under 150 pounds, takes very little space, makes no noise, and fits perfectly in the palm of my hand. Rather than gasoline, loving intent and loving attention are needed when I tap into the connections, and gratitude it makes possible. This generator is a flat, greyish-white, oval stone Ed and I got years ago when on the island of Iona off Scotland. There are two clear cuts on one side forming a cross. We bought it from a shepherd while exploring the island. He had carved crosses on at least a dozen “pocket” stones of different colors and put them on display atop a stone wall.
When we returned home we presented the stone to a long-time, elderly friend and mentor, John, who was as taken with it as we were when we first saw it. He kept it near, on his desk or on the table near his reading chair, within easy reach. When he died eight years later, his wife returned the stone to us. When I first held it, I realized some of the energy of John’s physical incarnation still adhered to it. For awhile the helpful energies, energies he’d shared with us through his steady and discerning thinking when he was alive, were available to me when I held the stone. They gradually faded as time passed.
When the stone was returned to us it found a permanent place on our home altar. And I began to sense how it was—indeed is—a generator. Even when I looked at it I felt connected not only to memories of John, but also of the shepherd whom we’d enjoyed chatting with, and the island of Iona (Iona and its Abbey were a focal point for the spread of Christianity in Scotland.) That wasn’t all. There are many dimensions to the stone beyond what I can sense now. What windy beaches or ocean depths did it come from before the shepherd found it? Was it once part of a bed rock or a much larger stone? What made it as smooth and finely shaped as it is now? Above all: what is the essence of “stone-ness” I feel but am not yet fully conscious of or able to connect with when it rests in the palm of my hand?
I believe every physical object in this world possesses the power to hold, produce, or transmute energy. While our 150 pound, gas-consuming generator, made to be exactly what it’s named, will likely produce the same amount of electricity for you as it does for us, others might not see or feel anything special in the stone from Iona. Yes, the cross engraved on it can add layers of meaning, but is it necessary to know this stone came from Iona and who knows what beach or ocean depths before the shepherd found it and added the imprint of his hand to it, to sense its energy? I think not. Any stone can be a window, a portal, a bridge into deep and wonderful stone-ness residing within our earth and ourselves.
Put another way: that this stone is an “incarnated” stone, a physical object created by mineral and other forces, means it has energy. The energy of this stone is quite different from, say, the energy of the spruce outside my window, the squirrel I often see in the spruce, or the birds, or you, or me. That the stone doesn’t grow, or can’t move without being moved by something else, doesn’t mean there isn’t energy within it.
These thoughts aren’t new; early cultures knew the earth and all its objects, animate and inanimate, as alive. Even Shakespeare added his own poetical slant to this knowledge:
“And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing…”
(As You Like It)
How can we make these thoughts our own, now, today, so all things that surround us, not just 150 pound modern machines, can be known to be sources of energy—generators of connections making for wholeness? I wonder about this when I hold our stone from Iona.
Curious about the sacred life of rocks, stones, trees and other objects in our natural and "built" environments? Take a look at David Spangler's essay "Life in All Things".