Soul Stones

Photo 1: Little stone rose carving atop a gravestone at Mount Nebo, in Spokane.

It will come as no surprise to you that rockosophy was built into the religions of the world, long-ago. I know, I know, could I paint with a more narrow word brush, please? Yes. Above, you see a little rose carving nestled amid an outpouring of its kin (here, we call them pocket rocks). I dog-earred the page in Here All Along (Finding Spiritual Guidance in Judaism After Finally Deciding To Look There), by Sara Hurwitz, referencing this stone-cold evidence that rockosophy dates back to the formation of basically everything.

"During cemetery visits, Jews traditionally don't leave flowers, but instead place a small rock on the gravestone." Cue Rock Rat's squeal, folding the corner nearest the paragraph, and turning the page eagerly. "There are many explanations for this, but one that I particularly like is based on an observation made by Rabbi David Wolpe about the traditional Jewish inscription on gravestones: 'May his/her soul be bound up in the bond of life.' The Hebrew word translated as 'bond,' Wolpe notes, can also mean 'pebble.'" Looking into it, Rabbi Wolpe also notes that the practice "probably draws on pagan customs, the stones also symbolize the permanence of memory." I pulled out the dog-eared page from the book before that and found a reference to the exact. Same. Thing. Rachel Kushner's The Flamethrowers: "...reminded Sandro of a tribe...deep in the Amazon of Brazil, who weighted themselves with stones so that their souls would not wander away...It became an obsession for him as a boy, this idea of people trying to keep their souls from escaping."

This is mind-blowing for two reasons: 1) As a convert to Judaism, there would have to be a spiritual description of rockosophy in there somewhere, amirite? It's totally a thing. 2) There's finally hard literature on the subject of rockosophy and long-held beliefs that hurtle over cultural and geographic boundaries. Can you say, "Absolutely titillating?!"? Naturally, I chucked the camera and calligraphy paper in a tote and swung AJ into drive, heading for Mount Nebo Cemetery- the only public access Jewish burial grounds I found in the 15 seconds it took me to ask The Google. Of course, just from the Images that spilled out in the results of my cursory search, I expected to find plenty of this when I got to Mount Nebo. What I didn't expect, was to be able to spot it from the road. Playing with my lens, I moved over and among headstones to the crunch of frosty morning grass. Thick grass. The kind you get in cemeteries where the natural climate is that of a desert and they have to sow the thickest, most carpet-like grass to sustain through the dry season where all hydrology is anthropriated*.

I didn't stay long. It felt too much like peeping, with the camera and the happy hopping from one lot to another. Some background here might be helpful. Graveyards are some of my favorite places. When I drive around a town, I notice where the parks and cemeteries are, first, because taking a family stroll with the pup is a darn fine way to spend your time. And second, my grandparents loved to walk the dog through a cemetery, and I've been to plenty funerals. Some say it's disrespectful, but I've always loved playing with a dog among gravestones. It's like an obstacle course with a view and lots of company. No joke- I used to make up stories about how all the names fit together. I don't think it's humanly possible to be in a cemetery and not think of others. That's the whole point, and it can be a very sad place but one reason they keep the trees so healthy and lushisly robust with shade is for the weary hearts who find comfort in this space. Enough of this, we all know grave yards are dope.

I'm just here in the clear to share a few of my favorite brainings* that were had whilst self-fogging up my glasses on a marvelous Monday morning, mindless to a myriad of malhappenings marinating us all alive.

This one, to the left, was the last before I headed for AJ. It looked like the remnants of a counter top's marble, in a butterscotch yellow. Which gave me the thought, Wait, it actually could be part of someone's counter top. When I had Tea with Bae (as I think about my lovely visit with this writing guru in Spokane), she said there is a place where a tile company dumps their broken pieces. She, herself, has a mosaic of the stuff in her front yard!

So, who knows where this hunky-o-chunk came from, but it could be an inside joke or a long-held secret of someone who shares an appreciation for re-purposing with intent.

This one was ominous and solitary on its perch. The polish and morning dew also made a superb reflection. Fly for several reasons- mostly because this is the only shot I could capture the reflection in. #gofigure

And, I like this one because it's gravel. Your standard, run-of-the-mill, chalky white gravel, that greys over time and is then replaced with more of the same. So. Someone put this here. Very intentionally. And that significance is accentuated by the reflection in the headstone. As if they're looking at each other. A gesture recognized by the sun reflecting on water, perhaps.

Finally, there's this super cool headstone. It was a tree trunk of marble, partially melted over the years of....well, frankly, being marble weathered in acidic conditions... But it was still is great shape, so it must not have been that old (on principle I try to read either all the names of the stones or as few of them as possible, to maintain that I am treating all memories of the dead equally). Now that I explain that it seems superstitious. I mean, ever been into a catacomb? Or to a funeral? Either it's all ok or none of it is, but being in the presence of human remains has the effect to percolate through one's values and find that we all just the same people, made of the same stuff. My point is that I avoided pretending to be on a mourner's trip and instead focused on the meditation of the gravestones's stones' importance. How they all belonged there, just by being there. Like all of us. Like the universal memory we all have of something, or someone, lost. It's a rock, it belongs everywhere. Rockosophy.

Oh, right! So the last picture features part of the mounded stones atop that rad marble tree trunk. They were distributed in fashionable disarray at the base of the sculpture and around it, too. But, even given that the single chalk gravel in the second photo, and the neat little local history in the one before, I didn't expect to see basalt. Which is down right ballin' funny because there's nothing else around us out here, in the steppe of eastern Washington than basalt bedrock and worn-smooth glacial gravel (Fun Fact: that 100-800 ft. of glacial deposit cleans and stores our Rathdrum Aquifer! So. Yea, take that to the bank). There, in the middle of a hundreds of river stones, marble chips, sculptures, and such, is a raw bit of basalt. I love that. Speaks to me, though I think finding the words to put down would somehow tarnish the introspection. Just a funny little thing -there among the agates and petrified woods- bringin' us all back down to Earth with the stuff directly under our feet.

Happy (Urban) Hounding!

~Rock Rat

*Anthropriated: When humans appropriate a natural phenomenon, out of necessity or desire.

*Braining: thought