Stone Harvest

Do Stones Feel?

by Mary Oliver

Do stones feel?
Do they love their life?
Or does their patience drown out everything else?

When I walk on the beach I gather a few
white ones, dark ones, the multiple colors.
Don’t worry, I say, I’ll bring you back, and I do.

Is the tree as it rises delighted with its many
each one like a poem?

Are the clouds glad to unburden their bundles of rain?

Most of the world says no, no, it’s not possible.

I refuse to think to such a conclusion.
Too terrible it would be, to be wrong.

The End of an Oak and the Birth of Paris

This is a giant oak from Hatfield, in the UK. It is huge and moving in its grandeur. I thought I would show it to you, as the following start to a story has such a large and lovely oak in the background as well.

The Birth of Paris

     She has been waiting such a long time, since her body grew too old to function, too old to stay in this place of air, earth, and water, woven into life. Or has it been a short time? She reminds herself that the body and its memories are not who she is; they are only a function of biology, of molecules responding to the laws of the universe. Her ‘being-ness’ though, that is the Great Awareness that she should have melted into by now. Still she remains. She waits. Nahasdzaan Shima, named for Mother Earth, waits and wonders in a place between.

     Long before Shima lost her corporal image of herself, she heard a whisper. It came in tendrils of passing dreams and in scents on the breeze. Something was moving in the ground; something was coming forward from a place of stillness, a place of long rest. Something had allowed itself to be recognized at last, to awaken, and to function in the world of humankind: something very old, and very interesting. The aspect of Shima that still held this memory, also held the long slow smile of knowing it.

     Thirty-five years before the now (my how time flies), two very determined people were preparing to have a child. It was not their cognitive intention to co-mingle their respective genetic materials, but since the universe supplies limitless causes throughout time (flying or not), without any preamble or discussion, it was probably unavoidable. 

     William Buller (whose good-name had French roots, meaning ‘Scribe’), was academically inclined, but not a scribe at all. He was a young Department Head at Cambridge, with deep interests in Celtic Studies, in a century when this arcane subject was barely surviving, due to the fact that human survival had become a far more insistent topic than it ever had been. In public he was very dry, a little vain, and not inclined to laugh. His Cambridge persona was something he had inherited, along with a hefty bank account and a very traditional, but often empty, stately home situated somewhere northeast of London, perhaps near Kettering? He seldom mentioned it. 

     Will had met the woman named Bijou Dubois, while on Easter Holiday in London, where he let down his hair, so to speak. Her name was apparently also from French roots, by way of Haiti. Will had cultivated a group of friends from his college days who also had inherited uncomfortably large amounts of credits (they seldom mentioned it), but far fewer societal restrictions. Among them he could comfortably explore what he thought of as his ‘true-self’; something with lots of unexamined, and momentarily undisguised, appetites. In many ways Will was a very simple man.

     Bijou was a bright young woman who had seen more of life than she had strictly wanted to, before leaving home. Now she wanted to see the world and this time on her own terms. Bijou was an exchange student from Haiti, studying in London. One of Will’s friends had her as a student in his classes there, and hoped to have her elsewhere as well. He had invited her along to these parties with that outcome in mind. Instead, Bijou and Will did one of those things that people sometimes do, regardless of the differences in their ages, cultures, economic situations, or sexual inclinations; they fell in love. Will’s friend was momentarily perturbed, but he was nothing if not a man of the age, and gracefully gave up the suite he had taken in anticipation, just down the road, for his friend and company.

    This is where terms such as ‘whirl wind romance’ are coined and earn their authenticity: in the scattered clothing, the foolish comments, and the primal longings of the heart. They had only 10 days before classes resumed, so Will, after having used his friends’ suite well, took Bijou back to his ancestral home. He boldly knocked up, frightened, and then reassured the elderly staff, and preceded to show Bijou the life that she was pretty sure she had been born to. 

       On the last day, a day of unusual warmth and sunshine in the burgeoning spring, they chose to have a picnic lunch, out the back, across a wide lawn, over the hillock, and some yards beyond the folly. There grew a ponderous oak of unknown age. Beneath its shade they took their repast and made their child. 

     Before anyone assumes that our dark, small, delicately featured, Bijou had any specific intentions when she forgot to bring her birth control on holiday, remember the words ‘whirl-wind’ and also remember the most primitive parts of the human brain, and how for some indefinable reason, no matter how difficult life becomes, no matter that you end up raising children with the Neanderthal in the next valley over (and loving it), or you bring home the cheese monger from another continent who will never learn to speak your native tongue (except in the most intimate of situations, when you are sure you have just resolved all of the worlds philosophical conundrums, but failed to care), remember that humanity would rather fall in love and reproduce than remember any other thing on earth. Cut her a break.

     The point of this, however, is not love, however it may seem so. The point of this is the oak, or rather, the oak and its complimentary fungus, growing slowly and resolutely in the grass beneath. Sweet William and his darling Bijou forgot about the blanket that the cook had packed for them, and the butler had pointed out before handing off the picnic basket. They talked and laughed and drank wine. They nibbled sandwiches and each other until the need for or even the location of the blanket was superfluous. They scrambled and rolled and… Let us just say that the molecules that it took to conceive a child were similar in size to those molecules of bits of the tree and its loving fungus. It might be good to consider the oak as a vast storehouse of learning and wisdom, and its mycorrhizal fungi as something like the Internet. Or perhaps not.

     There now, enough said. In the months ahead, the discovery of a certain child in a womb was considered a sweet thing, and set various other things in motion. A wedding was had, a small cottage in Cambridge was purchased, a man, 21 years older than his wife, knew himself to be smitten and didn’t mind, a young woman of only 20 years felt blessed and contented and at ease with the world. A child was born whole and healthy, and named for the most romantic thing her mother could think of, and everyone was happy. It is one of life’s most wonderful realities; no matter how lovely or poorly things seem to turn out, they are bound to change.

     Returning to the now, where the story began: the oak is long dead; its trunk was cored by some eager graduate students some 5 years after the birth of Paris, they had discovered it as one of the last English oaks surviving, and chose coring as a direct route to determining its age, Will and Bijou had split only two years after the birth of Paris, when Bijou was invited on a longish holiday to the continent, by a ‘friend’ of Will’s, that she never remembered to come home from, and Paris has long since learned to take care of herself very well and has reasoned that she has nothing in common with her parents, although she too is now smitten, perhaps just as they were, with a young doctor named Alan.

Also, just as an aside, Nahasdzaan Shima, with whom this story began, will soon have some of her questions answered. Due to the fact, that every action has a reaction, and that limitless causes have preceded every single bit of happenings in the known universe, of which this is only an excruciatingly small detail, a tiny window into existence; everything is still as it should be. Interesting.

Writing and The Feminine

You Go

Only recently did I realize that I might ‘write like a girl’. I know that I think and speak like one, but for some reason I felt that my writing was in some holy place of true expression that was genderless and unsullied by the world of sexual segregation. Oh silly me.

I love the tree above for its willingness to continue in the face of decapitation. In the response to having the ‘powers that be’ ultimately remove its entire sense of self, this tree looked up and went for it. Sometimes I wonder if I have the courage to continue, to use this medium and to attempt to flourish. I don’t wish to provide either one of us with a rant, but I would like to take a look at what I think, and have thought and how it might influence my act of creation.

It is interesting that I tend to choose female authors to read. looking back I realize that it seemed they had a better handle on how the world really worked; how people see and feel. Right there is judgement. Oh! I am doing it!

As a child, I had the strange experience of not seeing my own gender when I read a story, such as Huck Finn or Treasure Island. I absolutely saw myself as the adventurer, never as a small girl. I got the sense knocked into me as my life progressed. I grew older and found that many saw a sexual victim in my hopefull naïvety. Sigh.

The ‘sense’ that I developed was not to cower or knuckle under though, it was to see the scary things in the dark and take precautions. How did this effect my view of stories? I liked the images of strong females often shown in ‘Star Trek’, I became a fan of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and of the strong women in ‘Doctor Who’. But this is all fantasy, right? What isn’t?

Today I read a ‘Long Read’ that talked about the possible sexism in university writing programs:

How The Cult of Masculinity Can Poison Creative Writing Programs

It touched a nerve with me as I thought of the kinds of criticisms and directions I have received from male teachers over the years. Comments that rankled because they seemed to miss the point and wished me to conform to a style that was ‘right’ because several male authors wrote that way. I really wanted to do it right, but I found I could not.

I have read and studied and tried to embody the Hero’s Journey as described by Joseph Campbell. It always felt like a tight and inauthentic method of relating to the world, but here was all that evidence telling me that it was the historical truth in every aspect of my genetic develpoment. I felt guilty when I wanted to dump it and just tell my own story, develop my own way. Of course we are all influenced by the weight of history in how we depict the universe, but maybe the way to grow is to change? To try? To stumble? To fly.


With a little Google help, I found several discussions of Mr. Campbell as a sexist, unwilling to consider a woman in the role of hero. This made me sad. He was a man of his age, however, and I am trying not to see him as narrow, or unkind, only opinionated due to his life experience (does that work?) but I wonder what he thought of Sigourney Weaver in Alien, an indisputable hero of film.

For this not to be a rant (and I am truly against those in general), I need to look back at myself and ask:

‘what is this?’

It is all a journey, I am afraid. No answer here, at least none yet. Just a brief look into the abyss, something we should all do with great care. Remember that it does look back.

Tane Mahuta

Before you stands the beautiful Tane Mahuta, a huge and lovely Kauri tree (Agathis australis) in the famous Waipoua forest of New Zealand. There is an article on Wikipedia which is titled “List of Superlative Trees”

found here:

It lists not only the tallest, oldest, deepest rooted, etc, but the beefy ones too, of which Tane Mahuta is one. Third largest by trunk volume: 18,200 cubic feet! It is figured to be about 2000 years old.

The name “Tane Mahuta” is that of the Polynesian god of both birds and forests. This particular name pleased me, as trees would not be as they are without the roosting feathered ones, and birds without trees would be only sheltered by rocks and sky scrappers until every one of them looked like a pigeon. How would we have ever known the predator lurked, were it not for the call and flight of birds! It is in the subtle things that our guidance lies; as Ray Bradbury states in my favorite quote from Dandelion Wine:

“Crossing the lawn that morning, Douglas Spaulding  broke a spider web with his face.  A single invisible line on the air touched his brow  and snapped without a sound.  So, with the subtlest of incidents, he knew  that this day was going to be different.”

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury  

This simple image etched my childhood mind with an understanding of the world which has remained magical and so real at the same time. To this day, I am often found listening to the subtle messages brought by nature. (Thank you Ray!)

Tree Past

Lost (1999) By David Wagoner

Poet of the Pacific Northwest  

Stand still.

The trees ahead and bushes beside you are not lost.

Wherever you are is called Here,

And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,

Must ask permission to know it and be known.

The forest breathes. Listen.

It answers, I have made this place around you.

If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.

No two trees are the same to Raven.

No two branches are the same to Wren.

If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,

You are surely lost.

Stand still.

The forest knows Where you are. You must let it find you.