When we were younger and in our prime
We never wondered if we had enough time
When every day was not like the last
And now it seems like those years have passed
From Three Stones in My Pocket, __The Boondock Saints
I have an old, thermal-lined, canvas vest that I like to wear when I take the dogs out. I’ve had it for years and think it was originally a present for my dad. He never wore it much and eventually gave it back to me saying, “I like to have something warmer around my shoulders.” This story is not about the vest, but about the three stones in its pocket.
They are small pieces of quartz that I picked up over the years as I stumble through the uneven ground of the brown hills as the dogs chase birds, gophers, rabbits and their own tails in the shadow of Pikes Peak.
The milk-colored stones are the second most abundant material on earth, right behind feldspar – so they are certainly of questionable monetary value, but maybe their worth resides elsewhere.
The Irish word for quartz is grian cloch, which means 'stone of the sun'. Quartz was also used Ireland, as well as many other countries, in prehistoric times for stone tools. For me, they are a kind of tool, used to grind away the worry and smooth down the demon roughness when combined with a walk with the dogs, with the wind in your face, in the softness of the first morning sun or the last twilight of the day.
Of the three stones, the largest is very smooth and with rounded edges, shinny and milky white, pure in color. If you were to describe its shape, triangle would be the choice. It is not perfect, but what is? And perhaps it is close. It’s the rock, that if you were destined to be a rock, you might want to be. But with no rough edges and not many imperfections, it almost looks fake, or manufactured. It is my least favorite of the three stones.
Digging into the pocket the second stone lies there, next to a penny that I picked up for good luck. The penny was never the same good-luck value as 1943 steel cent I once found in the road while walking back from motorcycle breakdown up on Granath Mesa, but it still makes you wonder who dropped the coin, and when.
Anyway, the second stone. It is traditional quartz – long, six-sided, prism-shaped with a pyramid on one end. A split has taken a chunk out of a side, leaving a sharp, rough edge that you could cut a rope in two with. It is precise, straight edged and determined on most sides but cracked and obviously torn and ragged on that one edge.
When I am walking and worrying the stones back and forth in the warm vest pocket on a cold winter day, I must be careful that the second stone won’t slice open my thumb. It is that rough and dangerous around the edges.
Finally, the third stone is thin and fingerlike and very smooth to the touch. It looks a little like a section of dried-down tangerine but twists wildly to one side with smooth bumps and knobs that give it a character like no other –– much like the arthritic ring finger on my right hand. It has a knot at the bottom, along with the fingerlike shape, that allows it to fit perfectly between my thumb and the next two fingers. It is the perfect worrying stone because of its precise and comfortable fit. For this reason, it also is my favorite. The rough smoothness soothes and consoles. It gives meaning and purpose to the idle twiddling of my thumb and digits. It offers up a glimpse into its eternal memory. As Saul Bellow said, “A fool can throw a stone in a pond that 100 wise men can not get out.” I respect and admire that particular stone and what it represents. In ways, it has more value to me than a similar lump of gold. Who says the Stone Age is dead.