Rocks in My Pocket

by Abby on July 20, 2011

Cape Cod beachOn the beach that day, low tide, the sun slanting low in the sky, so bright you had to shade your eyes even with sunglasses on, the stones glistened on the sand like multicolored jewels. I couldn’t believe all those different colors could exist in nature, let alone on the same beach. Emerald green, deep rust, onyx, pearly white, every gray from dove to charcoal. All spread out before me like an upended treasure chest.

I spent a good half hour picking through them, choosing the exact right mix of colors and sizes, the smoothest, flattest rocks, a selection that looked good together. Then, since we’d come on our bikes with no backpacks or bags, I stuffed them into my pockets, as many as I could carry.

Back home, I forgot about my rocks for a while, too caught up in the unpacking and the laundry and the readjustment to post-vacation life. When I remembered them, I was disappointed to discover that my rocks were much less vibrant once they were no longer bathed in sunlight and sea water. No matter.

I’m not sure why I decided to stack them, but I have them displayed on the shelf above my desk, where I can see them daily. In one of those funny coincidences, I happened to come across an article about stacked rocks soon after. Here’s an excerpt:Stacked rocks

Called “cairns” or “herma,” piles of stones have been used by cultures around the globe as travel signs, religious monuments, ceremonial objects, and burial markers. Despite its simplicity, a herma is a powerful talisman, a monument to a primal human existence that extends beyond the basics of food and shelter. Cairns serve as reminders of people who have come before, as well as humankind’s complicated relationship with nature.

Apparently, there’s also the art/discipline/hobby of “rock balancing,” practiced around the world. I remember when we visited Yosemite national park a few years ago, we came across a wide expanse of these balanced-rock formations.

Stacked rocks at Yosemite

Stacked rocks at Yosemite

I like my little pile of rocks. It reminds me of that beautiful, peaceful beach. And it connects me to something larger than myself.

Do you bring home any “souvenirs” from your travels? What do you collect and why?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen@so much to say July 20, 2011 at 3:49 pm

This is so interesting! I had never seen anything like this until we were in Ithaca, NY a couple of years ago, and visited a waterfall. In the stream below it, people had made incredibly complex sculptures of stacked rocks. We figured it was just some quirky tradition of this particular place. How fun, to see that it’s so much bigger than that!


Lou Mello July 20, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Very cool pic of both the beach and the stacked rocks, I loved seeing stuff like this when we visited Yosemite years and years ago.
Maybe Stonehenge is actually the bottom of what once was a really huge bunch of stacked rocks?? Those space folks must have been big Dudes.


Malia Jacobson July 21, 2011 at 12:05 am

Lovely, serene post, Abby! Coincidentally, one of my FB friends just posted pictures of some awesome rock stacks from a California beach. How interesting and primal–it really does seem to be a universal activity. I always bring rocks home from vacation (and my 4 year old is becoming quite the rock collector, too) but I never know what to do with them! Though I’d be afraid to keep them in a stack, around my rough-and-tumble little ones. They’d knock it over in a heartbeat! Maybe someday I’ll have my own office…sigh.


Kim July 21, 2011 at 9:31 am

I love rocks! I started up a rock collection with my girls a few months ago (they each have an egg carton to put their rocks in), but I love it when I come across cairns or stacked rocks. In the backcountry of Utah I have seen it a lot and we always add our own, helping people to know where the trail is in case you get five days into the wilds and not know where to go. Here in San Diego there is a tourist area where one man stacks enormous rocks, bigger than my girls. I don’t know how he does it, but the image holds its own sense of awe. Rocks have lots of imagery for me! I love the description you wrote about yours 🙂


Maarit July 21, 2011 at 1:26 pm

I collect heart-shaped rocks 🙂


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