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Stones a meditation

Tony Reynolds


Stones A Meditation

Tony Reynolds


The earth by recent scientific estimates is 4.6 billion years old, the universe more than 13 billion years.

The ordinary stone found in your garden has been part of the earth longer than those who wish to date it by science, magic or belief, were ever part of the earth, by any measurement. Certainly, that little garden stone is probably not millions of years old, it’s been through many changes to get to your garden. But its old and when it’s not considered a hindrance to growing your petunias and carrots you might even find its ordinariness worthy of your attention.

Like many young boys, my trouser pockets were filled with great many treasures, a few pennies, an occasional handkerchief and stones. pretty stones, odd stones, stones for protection and “hope-this-is-adiamond” stones. My mother, mindful and protective of her washer and dryer, would dutifully empty the cache, wary of possible creatures and sharp objects.


They were deposited, minus the creatures, on top of the dryer for me to retrieve. To my astonishment, my wife has picked up the practice and occasionally there is a small pile of loose change (no creatures or treasures), there on the dryer, for me to collect.

For a boy, as I have indicated above, stones are a useful find. Seldom are two alike making the discoveries even more amazing. Some look ancient and some just old. Never one to “collect� I rarely cataloged or categorized them. They were usually fleeting ephemera of interest though some remained on bedroom shelves for a long time. One or two have reached into my 70 some years although I do not know why, unless by connection and vague recollection.

I don’t know if stones are only the purview of boys. During my young years I never saw a girl pull one from a pocket of her dress, if she had pockets. Actually, I had never given it a thought until now.

A stone in the pocket was power, was a mystery to keep, was talisman, a place holder in my universe.

Many years have passed now and my universe has changed many times.


Stones had no place in the pocket of a young cleric, a soldier, a businessman, CEO and husband. Although there were times when as my children were growing that stones and other special things were kept safe and then return to tiny hands.

The cacophony of an active life had little room for stones. The keys, the coins and billfold took up much room. The pockets were needed for pens and phones and many more mature and manly things. More need for room for scholarly things, for career things. for important things. Not stones.

And then I retired.

It took a while to divest myself of the “important� things. The business suits and pressed trousers have given way to denim jeans and looser fitting clothes. I still seemed to need to carry a phone, a wallet, keys and occasionally a few coins. A pen knife showed up one day, useful during the hikes I was taking. And of course, the stones.

As I retired I had planned a great artistic life. I had always done some type of art, had always been in the middle of some project. Those things provided a distraction, a pressure relief valve for the day to day barrages that


accompanied “the career”. I was deep into ceramics. I joined a gallery as a partner and sold my wares beside others to some success. The pottery was sculptural and full of storytelling. I know I am an odd duck; artist, business owner, writer at times and always the accountant/banker. Most acquaintances hardly believe one side or the other. A person really can’t be both accountant and artist, can they? And yet, I thought so. Even to the point of opening my own gallery, determined to show “better art”, “truer art”, undiscovered artists and fascinating art. I found it invigorating to search for new artists to show. The gallery shows were received well. The patrons were pleased, the artists elated, the newspapers had articles and I gave interviews.

And I did no more of my own art.

The death of my mother was only an excuse, I know. I closed the gallery and allowed others to believe what they would. A crisis had been met and answered. What difference the public reasons?

I returned to the studio without needing the appellation of “artist”. I no longer needed or wanted the commerce of art, only the doing, only the physical act of moving idea to reality.


And I started picking up stones again, from time to time, without great purpose, without a quest or goal. My thoughts on stones have evolved a bit and I feel I need to at least layout some of the path.

The interest in stones is culturally diverse. I had stumbled upon the appreciation of stones through a bonsai exhibit at the Huntington Library in Pasadena, California. Tucked in a corner were several examples of “scholar rocks”. The Chinese practice is Gongshi, Japanese is Suiseki and Korean “petrophilia” is Suseok. There is a fourth more recent appreciation known as Yulem originating from Marcel Duchamp’s ready-made art theories but that practice includes


many ready-made objects and not just stone.

The focus of the three eastern disciplines includes contemplation, a connection with nature and a rigorous definition/categorization of each stone type.

‘In the Tang dynasty, a set of four important qualities for the rocks were recognized. They are: thinness (shou), openness (tou), perforations (lou), and wrinkling (zhou)’… The aesthetics of a scholar's rock is based on subtleties of color, shape, markings, surface, and sound. Prized qualities include: _ awkward or overhanging asymmetry _ resonance or ringing when struck _ representation or resemblance to mountainous landscapes or figure _ texture _ moistness or glossy surface {Wikipedia}

Central to these appreciations was the ability of the stones to first transport thought while gazing or meditating and the stones’ ability to simulate a natural setting. As in many forms of meditation the stone provided a locus, a mandala to which and from which the meditation could take place.


Now you must know that I am a Westerner. I am not one given to meditation, certainly not in the past nor present. At least within the definition and traditional practice of what has been studied as meditation. I prefer action, the doing, the creative. Yes, I dream and design. I embrace the serendipitous, the ephemeral whimsy. My analytic brain is in service to my creative brain and vice versus. But I do not practice a meditation discipline. This essay is, however, very much enwrapped in a meditation upon stones. Where the practices above provide a foundation for a meditation centuries old, I would like to put to you another view, another focus on the stone.


The Stone Is. Whereas Gongshi, Suiseki and Suseok make a placeholder of the stone, a portal reminding the person of nature and where as a mandala is a representation of a journey, actual or proscribed, I present to you that the stone is. The stone is a stone. It is of itself, real in its existence. It is without need to be or remind one of something else. It is. A Stone has its own weight. A Stone has its own color, shape, size. A Stone reflects light uniquely and casts its own shadow. A Stone has a flavor, an odor. A Stone is cold but not bitter. A Stone has a voice. That voice is silence.


A Stone is Truth. It, of itself, does not tell lies. A Stone has only its own story. A Stone teaches nothing‌everything. A Stone does not promise or threaten. A Stone does not give life in the present. Or in another future.


A Stone will be with you until you loose it from your life. A Stone takes up space regardless of what is allowed. A Stone has only its own memories. A Stone can be forgotten and recalled. A Stone can be intimate. Is not a friend.


From what I understand of meditation (and I may be completely in error), the purpose is to quiet the mind, to give it a respite and a place from which to grow. So I have used it. I find I need a place from which dreams and ideas grow. A stone is a fertile place, but it is its own place. It would be easy to see “somewhere” in the following pictures. I don’t say that is wrong or that I didn’t intend that. My mind, our minds, are wired to project, to fantasize, to create environments with the smallest of seeds. It is wise to remember, however, a stone in the pocket has only our fingers to search its identity. The eyes are such traitors.


to Cliff and Morgan, who know stones.


Stones a meditation

Š by Tony Reynolds. The book author retains sole

copyright to his contributions to this book. 2016


Stones, A Meditation  

An approach, an examination of what is real, truth and how to hold it.

Stones, A Meditation  

An approach, an examination of what is real, truth and how to hold it.

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