It seems that most people who speak of friendship rocks these days are referring to smallish stones hand-painted with designs and such intended to be given to somebody special. Yes, the rocks are special too, but it’s the personalized decoration that makes them so. The friendship rocks that I recall from my days spent at summer camp, on the other hand, were already made special by the process of their creation. They were stones which, by some process that I can’t begin to articulate, were formed with holes all the way through them – perfect for stringing with a length of cord and wearing around the neck. Being rare, as they were, made searching for them an endeavor of excitement. And finding one meant that the person sharing in the search was a true friend to be valued.
I was reminded of friendship rocks not long ago when I found one without even trying to in the riverbed not far from our home. My wife and I are blessed to be able stroll the river’s banks from time to time, looking for interesting stones and enjoying the sense of childlike wonder that always visits us as we do. Thankfully, some things don’t change. No matter how old we might get!
Perhaps past, present, and future are all here in this moment – the infinite potential of the pregnant emptiness of now?
That same riverbed is also good for crinoid fossil hunting. Crinoids were plentiful during the Ordovician Period some 450 million years ago. They were ocean dwelling animals that looked in most cases like flowers blooming on raised stalks rooted to the seafloor. Upon their demise, their segmented stalks frequently separated, leaving an abundance of disk-like pieces strewn about which then become trapped in layers of sediment to eventually become fossilized. Interestingly, those disk-like pieces of fossil would one day be strung onto cords and worn as so-called “Indian bead” jewelry. Inspiration for those friendship stones of my youth? Perhaps.
Talk about stones made special by the process of their creation! Is it possible to even fathom the full reality of holding a stone in your hand that contains the bodies of animals that lived 450 million years ago on a warm ocean floor in the very spot that you’re standing? It’s too bizarre to even comprehend. Perhaps the Zen way of looking at time makes much more sense than the way we usually think about it. Perhaps past, present, and future are all here in this moment – the infinite potential of the pregnant emptiness of now?
In case you’re not aware of it already, rock hunting is a meditation of sorts. While not the Zen form that I usually engage in, it has much in common with some others. Rock hunting requires us to keep an archetype in mind of whatever it is that we’re looking for – the object of our meditation – whether it be a rock with a hole in it, a nice flat skipping rock, a fossil of some type, or a nice smooth stone for painting on. With the object of our meditation firmly seated in our awareness, blocking out extraneous mental activity, we scan our world looking for similarity. It’s peaceful to simply be in the world without so much stuff bouncing around in our head. With a little practice, we can enjoy such peace whenever we may choose. The pregnant emptiness of the now is always close at hand!
Copyright 2018 by Mark Robert Frank
All images are the property of the author unless otherwise noted.