Teaching a Stone to Speak

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself —Leo Tolstoy

Preamble The story I’m about to tell is a tale I’ve told many times before, though never in writing; and now that I come to think of it, I find I’d rather not write it down at all. I’m serious about this. Committing this story to writing feels like possibly putting myself in danger of losing it. And yet this story in so many ways lies at the heart of Edgewood Wild, indeed it’s the fulcral axis of everything I believe in; so write it down I must. Let’s see how we go.

First Approximation


was walking late one afternoon, middle of September, out on Island Earth just west of here. This was nine years ago, at a time when I still went out walking with the express purpose of clearing my head of cobwebs and, if I could, dislodging from my chest of the gremlin who liked to hang out there.

Wall of Signatures by Chance Breckenridge
©Chance Breckenridge

In those days, you see, I was like millions of others in the western world who suffer terribly from anxiety, and life-sucking depression before that. Thinking back, it comes to me indeed that I’d suffered from these afflictions for as long as I can remember – standing there, for instance, one bright, sunshiny, dandelion-yellow afternoon on the lawn outside my childhood home on Venables Street, eight years old, sobbing uncontrollably.

Anyhow, on this particular day I was walking the Moonloop Trail, a forest path I’d walked a hundred times by then, possibly more, and to the side of which stood a large, solidary granite stone about a metre to a side, possibly more, which I’d often pause to admire: its thin chromatic covering of lichens and mosses and who knows what else.

On this particular day, however, my mind was elsewhere and, having come abreast of Moonstone without breaking stride, I was just about to descend the little hollow beyond it when the ground beneath my feet performed a little shudder. Yes a shudder. I can think of no other word to describe it really: just a very decided, yet also very brief shudder.

At this point I stopped, as you might expect, and pulled out of my pocket a Sony voice recorder, into which I recorded the words: September fifteenth, twenty fourteen, small brief earthquake, Island Earth. That done, I pocketed the recorder again and carried on my merry, gremlin-haunted way.

Days passed, but the anxiety, alas, did not. Inevitably there came another after, perhaps a week or two later, when I happened to be out walking Moonloop again, and for much the same reason as before. Again it was late in the day and I recall how the shadows cast by the aspens were long and sharp-edged against the yellow light cast by the lowering sun.

Coming once again abreast of Moonstone, and, my thoughts once again somewhere else and the old familiar gremlin still gnawing at my chest, I was just heading down to the little hollow when (yes, you guessed it), the ground once again made a sudden little shudder no different from the one some time before.

OK, that’s a far as I’m going to take this little tale. Were I an accomplished poet, perhaps I could carry it further, but I’m not. Suffice it to say that what happened next changed me (as all these years later I can now confidently attest) forever. Suffice it to say that what happened next was the dropping of the penny I’d always hoped would one day drop but never expected to actually do so.

Perhaps you could say I crossed an invisible boundary that afternoon, an event horizon. Suddenly the Living Earth seemed to smile upon me. Suddenly I found myself on the far, sunlit side of the same stream whose shady banks I’d been following all my life. Suddenly I felt like I was home in a way I’d always dreamed possible but never expected to achieve. Suddenly, in short, I seemed to become indigenous to this place, this Island Earth.

The upshot anyhow is this: that it wasn’t Moonstone who suddenly began to speak. Rather it was me. It was I who began to converse not just with Moonstone, but with the Living World at large – to be open to that possibility.

Nor do I exaggerate in any of this and here’s proof: that it was precisely on that late sunlit afternoon, 21 September 2014, that the gremlin in my chest vacated and the anxiety that had gnawed me some sixty years began gradually to dissipate.

What confirmed itself to me that blessed September afternoon was the lesson that Orca, and now Purple, had been communicating to me for the past decade: that the price of admission into western culture is erasure of a birthright common to all living things: to be fully open to the possibility of being home.

So here then is another offering from Edgewood Wild. Though I must say that the full-on, trailside version of this little story covers much more ground than I’ve covered here. Who can say, perhaps its telling can help others in their journey through life in this time of times. I do hope so.

Next up: Sharing Mothers