Choose a small rock in the first ten minutes or so of our hike.. whatever size will fit comfortably in your pocket or pack. When choosing, consider some kind of struggle in your life. Consider your mental health. You may be dealing with a challenging issue now, or you may have painful memories, or both. Pick a thought, any thought, and consider that the rock stands for this particular thought. Let it sit in your mind, touching it now and then between the chatter and laughter and heavy breathing as you hike. Feel free to talk about it… or not. The only rule is when we all get to our furthest destination on this hike, we will each place our rock in one shared spot, forming a pile, then leave it there. We’ll acknowledge the struggle, mark it, then let it be.
So everyone picked their rock during the first 10 minutes of hiking, and we carried on. Rocks were definitely the recurring theme of the day,as there were so many on this trail, including glacial erratics which traveled over 50 miles to get there, on ice, 12,000 years ago. When we got to ‘Bald Hill’, which was our final destination before heading back, one of the main sights to see was the quarry across the valley, operated by Thalle Industries. I shared my own first impression with the group, when first testing out this trail, of this ‘eye-sore.’ But then I also shared what I learned when I researched the company, and how humbled I felt to learn that they are a family-run business dedicated to environmental causes and have won numerous awards for sustainable practices, including a special reclamation method of planting new growth in increasing step-like areas of the quarry so that in a few years the mountain will be completely green once again. The exposed view of that quarry is an important reminder of what we all take for granted every day when we drive on highways and complain about pot-holes. The company’s main product is asphalt for construction. What can’t be grown must be mined.. and as long as we all use all the products we use, we need to acknowledge the necessity of industry. And companies that do their best to ‘give back’ to the Earth, while taking what is needed are examples to be celebrated. And while nobody and no company is perfect, we can all at least make the effort to do our homework instead of making assumptions.
So then with the view of the quarry and raptors gliding in the still-dry sky, we all placed our rocks in a little pile. And I read a few words I had prepared:
I may be biased due to my son being a rock climber, but rocks really are amazing.. they tell stories of the Earth from it’s very beginnings. Stacks of rocks, or cairns, can show hikers the right way. Carefully balanced stacks can be a work of art, a cathartic practice, and a path to mindfulness. Rocks are used to build cities, they are blasted, mined, drilled, carved, climbed, photographed, painted. All can agree that rocks have great significance, both physically and symbolically. They are an obstacle to overcome, or a problem to solve. They are used to mark a person’s grave. I came across these words, which are carved in a gravestone at a museum in Rome: “How great was my fortune on the day that I was quarried from the mountain. Thus here I am, a crown upon the head of an honest man and I confer grace to every exhausted soul.“ So, rocks stand for things. They give us protection, shelter, and strength. We hang on to them. During and since the time my brother struggled with major depression, he would tell me I was his rock. And who hasn’t walked along an ocean shore, collecting rocks to bring home? But they will weigh us down if we carry too much. So on that note, we set them down and let them go…
And so we did!
After that little ritual, my friend Laura led everyone in a five-minute yoga ‘centering’ session, a special bonus. I sacrificed a little of my own centering to sneak a couple of photos of everyone standing in their mountain pose, atop the mountain. It was really nice! We made it back to our cars in one piece. Sweating and limping but smiling.
That about sums it up! And here are some photos: