Earthworms’ Castings: Rock Pile

With Jean Ponzi

I walked, talked, played and dreamed with imaginary companions, in the woods and fields where I grew up on a rural edge of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My peeps were history’s great classical composers until a new girl down the hill became my first human friend.

A favorite spot to hang with invisible pals was a big pile of big rocks hidden in the trees behind the neighboring home of our town’s Superintendent of Schools.

A kid who sits on rocks with J.S. Bach may also converse with the natural world. She can make some lifetime friends that way, learning to love what she’s open to hear. Attachments formed in those carefree days might solidify in a heart that grows up to care for her environment, rich in relations all around the circle of life.

A kid like this may also learn to ask her internal friends if they have a preference, before picking or pocketing them off their home pile. Such courtesy is, in fact, a Life Skill for Homo sapiens.

Lines of rocks surround my home today. They border blooming planting beds, define paths, offer easy steps up a sloping hillside, and rise in a handsome wall hand-built by my husband Dale, also a natural lover of rocks.

We search for new yard rocks in spring. Unearthed in road cuts and subdivision clearings, lots of rocks are willing to go with folks who treat them with respect, not as merely future gravel. We have liberated legions, appreciatively, with no jobsite by-your-leave, where heavy equipment has upheaved them.

As newlyweds, we traveled to the Grand Canyon. I packed along a little tin box of rocks from our new St. Louis home – all up for adventure – nestled in cedar and juniper greens with wee pine cones tucked along for the ride. We hiked together down Bright Angel Trail. The local rocks were dawn-pink and ochre-yellow, sternly gray and pale as sand. If you gazed with an artist’s eye, every hue under heaven was visible in those splendid strata.

I sat down under a scrubby pine on a stone ledge jutting over the canyon. With my cache of Missouri rocks open to the blue Arizona sky and crowds of ancient individuals basking nearby, I asked my old internal question: Would you like to go?

I rose from that glorious view with a grainy red slab, carefully wrapped in a jacket, stowed into my knapsack between notebook and a weightless little tin.
Rock friends in and around our home have come from many special spots, milestones (literally) for me.

Amethyst collected in Canada’s Thunder Bay by Gramma and Grampa, when my Mom was only as old as rock pile me would one day be, migrated south from their garage in a vintage bushel basket.

Lake Superior Granite, smooth and round as petrified eggs, came in that basket too. They later welcomed some I met personally on my journey with Gramma into her Northern roots, when she was 91 and I was the age she had been when I was born, and the time Dale and I got to explore my ancestral land.

Karst Limestone from Ozark streams – the lacy kind that looks like brains – came ashore from float trips with many friends.

On my last winter visit to our childhood home before it passed to a new family, I rambled alone through woods to the rock pile. Outwardly it seemed flatter and broader, much like me, though inside I felt very little had changed. I sat awhile on the cold humps in companionable silence, listening to flying winds and geese, leaf rattle, branch scrape.

Then I asked politely, in my mind, if any individual on that pile would like to come live with me. As on all my visits there over the years, no rock answered.

Some connections made in this lovely world I carry only in my heart, where they are rock-solid.

Join Jean Ponzi for conversations-in-Green on her weekly Earthworms show, podcasting from KDHX St. Louis Independent media, available at podcasts.kdhx.org or through iTunes