Words and Stones

Words are like stones.  You must work with them.  You must heft them, turn them in your hands, feel their weight and their shape, know each one for what it is before you can find its proper place, not its perfect place, for no stone and no word ever fits perfectly, and each word and each stone must be held in place by other stones and words, by earth or by mortar, but each will have its proper place, a place that fits it, a place for which it might have been fitted if it had been fitted, though it has not been fitted for any place at all, and what these words and these stones become is precisely this, a proper place that is the sum of their proper places, where they come to be something that they always could have come to be, one of the many things that they could have come to be, and perhaps, oh, let us rest in this perhaps, they will come to be something beautiful.  This is the work of the mason and the writer, both.  It is what makes words like stones.

  1. John Jantunen said:


    What I like about words the most, and stones for that matter, is how often they can surprise you. For example, I used the word spurious in a letter of support I wrote the other day for a woman who is having troubles with her ex-husband. I don’t exactly know why I chose that word except that it sounded right in the context within which I used it (I am appalled that [he] is forcing [her] to use her limited financial resources and her energy to defend against such a spurious use of the legal system) and that generally, as a rule, is good enough for me. Out of curiousity I checked its meaning in me Webster’s abridged (1908 edition) and discovered that, rather than simply meaning illegitimate as I had assumed, it also means: outwardly similar or corresponding to something without having its genuine qualities (That’s the latest interent definition as I am at work right now). As i had just used duplicitous in the previous sentence I was pleasently surprised that the word I had plucked out of the air for my concluding sentence so perfectly matched the overriding tone of my letter. A little success, yes, but thinking of it has given me a few moments of pleasure since and that is no small thing for such a little word. On the stone front, I have many stories of my encounters with stones (most of them originating in my garden) but as it is currently 10:58 pm I will relate only a personal favourite. Whilst Tanja and myself were living in Nova Scotia, we often went down to Moose Point, on Chedebucto Bay, to walk on the beach. After about a quarter of a mile of sand the shore gave way to pebbles and generally after about a half hour of slogging through a few million years worth of these ballbearing-sized morsels we would sit and have a smoke, a drink and something to eat. With only more of the same ahead for as far as the mind could fathom we usually lingered in that spot, filling our time by searching out whatever extraordinary rocks we could find within easy reach. Tanja would later use these as the center pieces of the necklaces she fashioned out of fimo (they are quite amazing and she has a reserve of them is anyone is interested in a unique gift) but the fact that they had a purpose was really beside the point; we just liked to sit and sift through the stones, knowing that one handful could very likely have contained stones from all four corners of the globe (many certainly looked exotic enough to give you that impression anyway). Once, I happened to pick up a smooth black rock, about the size of your hand if you were to cut in between the middle fingers and fold it over into itself. It was not a remarkable looking stone, by any stretch, and I probably only picked it up because it was close by and it was quite possible that it was on top of something really interesting. As I lifted it though, it revealed it’s true nature to me: Where there should be one piece there were six and jumbled in my hand it took me longer, perhaps, than it should have to fit it back together. Look, I said to Tanja and handed it to her, mixed up of course. Funny, but it also took her longer than it should have to piece it back together but once she did one was hard pressed, unless one looked very close, to see that it wasn’t a single piece, such was the perfection of the cuts. Really, there is no mystery about this rock, obviously another rock was thrown by a swell and hit it just in the exact place that that rock needed to split it into six pieces, leaving it intact by a similar process, the exact details of which defy me. Still, we took the rock home with us and I made a little sign out of drift wood and stuck it to a clam shell where the stone found a new home, suitabley jumbled of course, and a name: Rock Puzzle. Anyone who came into our home thereafter was directed towards our mantle and expected to have a go at it. None that tried, failed but I always noted with some satisfaction (although I can’t say why) that it always took atleast a little longer than it should have, a fact that, thinking about it now, I would ascribe to the sense of wonder that each person brought to the challenge. And that, I would say, is no small thing for such a little rock.

  2. John,

    So where is this rock now? I have never been directed to your mantle.

  3. John Jantunen said:

    Yes, yes. I realised a moment after pressing submit that I forgtot to mention that, alas, the rock did not survive the move from NS. When I opened the box it was half Raidersofthelostark’d so the pieces didn’t fit together anymore. I held it up to Tanja and her reply was, Chuck it. I did. And not even a picture to prove it ever existed.

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