The Old Stone Savage

The boulder is a natural monument to the great herds of bison that once ranged over the entire prairie and was used as a “rubbing stone”. Location: Arm River Valley in Saskatchewan, Canada

The old stone savage moves slowly. You and I would not notice his nomadic ways.

A rock of considerable size, the old stone was only a speck of primal dust when earth’s violent labor pains delivered its raw materials. Angels clung to each other in fear and awe of its clamorous birth.

Having arisen to the surface, the young stone left his siblings behind and traveled on an ice flow until he came to the valley floor where he now rests. He is surrounded by wooded hills and rocks born of another but congenial family. Cows often come to scratch their backs on his shoulders.

If you are fortunate enough to find him awake, you can hear him humming.

His tunes are stolen scraps of songs he’s gathered over time. Deeply resonant melodies, the ones that travel on higher frequencies. The ones he remembers are without words for he has no such language.

Some are only simple refrains, but such a variety. Here’s a waltz. There’s a Gregorian chant. Flutes, violins, a melancholy saxophone.

But there’s more, composed by his neighbors and companions. Symphonies from the oaks. Jazz tunes from wildflowers. Sparkling melodies from the spring creek. Echoes from the canyon.

He grows silent as a hawk spirals great circles on thermal updrafts. For a brief moment, the stone feels he is the hawk, air rushing under wide spread wings.

Moonlight winks off the thousand quartz eyes embedded in the old stone savage, igniting a fire which burns within the caverns of his ancient weathered heart.


This poem was inspired by Natalie Goldberg and Robert Frost. Natalie approaches writing as Zen meditation and spiritual practice.

Natalie approaches writing as Zen meditation and spiritual practice. From a writing prompt in her book Writing Down the Bones, she suggests:“Take a poetry book. Open to any page, grab a line, write it down, and continue from there. If you begin with a great line, it helps because you start right off from a lofty place.”

What I ‘grabbed’ was the phrase ‘an old stone savage’ from Robert Frost’s Mending Wall. In Frost’s poem it is spring and he is walking his fence line, struck by his neighbor’s appearance as together they replace stones in their mutual wall.“I see him there bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top in each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.”

When I read that line, my mind’s eye saw a great burly old boulder, rather than a man. He had history. I developed a great affection for this ancient being while discovering his back story.

The photo, which I discovered later, has history as well. The boulder is a natural monument to the great herds of bison that once ranged over the entire prairie and was used as a “rubbing stone”. Location: Arm River Valley in Saskatchewan, Canada

Admitting my love affair (with writing)

When do you let the cat out of the bag?

In the beginning I didn’t tell anyone I was writing a book.  I thought it sounded rather pompous, and of course, I didn’t know if I had the guts to sustain it, but I kept hacking away, in the dead of night for going on 3 years. Whatever else happens, I am pretty happy about not giving up and not starting six different other projects to keep me from finishing one, which is more the norm for me.

I didn’t tell  anyone hardly anyone what I was up to until the 5th revision and my book had a finished sort of feel to it. Before admitting my nocturnal activities, writing was a clandestine affair. I might be wrong, but I doubt if quilters and knitters have this same kind of guilty pleasure. Gradually I started answering the question, “what have you been up to?” honestly, because at some point, without even knowing when, I started to feel like a writer.

I knew it was a serious affair when I wanted to write instead of watch TV and I talked to my characters in the shower.

But can I call myself a writer if I haven’t published? My rational self says ‘of course!” but doubts set in as I wonder, what if I have only one story? What if I can’t publish this one.  What if I tell people I’m writing a book, nothing comes of it and I fall flat on my face.

So be it. It doesn’t matter any more.  

The hurdle is one of confidance. I’m thinking that Confidance waxes and wanes like the moon. Some days, I feel great about the book I’m working on. I’m excited, even after umpteen rewrites. I think it’s a good story, yada yaha.  But when I spend two hours eeking out the details of three paragraphs, I think..geez, what am I doing? How can it take so long to get it right? Maybe I’m not a ‘real’ writer, whatever that means.

I wonder if Kate DeCamillo or (insert your favorite author) spends hours agonizing over the right POV, voice, exposition, and/or dialogue. If I was a real writer, wouldn’t this get easier? Should I just quit and take up knitting?

Problem is, much as I appreciate a good sweater, I have no passion for knitting.

Am I writer? or is this just a cheap form of therapy?

But writing draws me like a magnet and I can’t stop now. I’m working it for all its worth because it keeps me sane. As I write that, I know it’s true, even though it sounds crazy. Writing is a form of contemplation that allows me to process life. It helps me slow down and examine the raw data that surrounds me in visible and invisible forms.

I’ve come to think of writing as taste testing the stew of oddments, profane, divine, related and seemingly unrelated, that come hurtling towards me at quark speed.  When I write, I sort it out, spice it up, stir it and add ingredients from other pots.

But enough of  food metaphors. On my own terms, in my own time, writing simply lets me breathe.


What about you? Are you tongue-tied about calling yourself a writer?

Why read?

I love C.S. Lewis’s powerfully simple answer:

We read to know we are not alone.

We learn we are not alone in our struggle to make sense of this world. We learn that everyone throughout time struggles with various aspects of hope and despair, good and evil, love and hate, along with all the varying degrees of our emotional makeup as humans. Stories are what we share of our ourselves that make us human.

As readers, we applaud or scorn various books and viewpoints. As writers, we have the job of examining the depths of human consciousness and experience to try and make an entertaining or inspiring story. Readers and writers become intrinsically connected by this sharing.

Reading a good book makes us a little bigger than we were before. We’ve entered a new world, met new people and vicariously experienced their lives. A well turned out phrase can imprint an image or idea within us, changing  our essence in subtle ways we are not even aware of.

I’m thinking of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. Until I read it, I rarely thought of dandelions as anything more than weeds (or wild herbs to be generous). But there’s another perspective on just about everything isn’t there? Bradbury’s grandfather saw the flowers as the perfect choice for making his summer wine. Those ‘golden flowers that flooded the world, dripped off lawns onto brick streets, tapped softly at crystal cellar windows and agitated themselves so that on all sides lay the dazzle and glitter of molten sun.’

I could have spent my whole life thinking of dandelions as undesirable and needing of eradication and I’m sure I’d be just fine. But reading this book about Bradbury’s childhood, so rich in description and high value instilled in small ‘insignificant’ things sends ripples of change throughout my consciousness.

As a reader, once I absorb a good book, it becomes part of who I am.

What books stand out in your mind as having a great influence on how you think…and for writers, how you write.


072Language has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone, and the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.    Tillich, Paul