At West Beach, Lummi Island
by Annie Dillard
My boots crunch down the slope, clamber over
the bleached bones of trees. I conquer a tide of pebbles;
at wave edge I stoop and finger one, another,
fondling their flecks and facets, their skin soft as peaches.
Their colors burn my retina. Uninvited words leap into my throat.
I am astonished; from what pleat of brain tissue did they spring?
Schist, agate, gneiss, shale, scree, granite, quartz- they use
my lips to utter their abrasive syllables. God is in these
crystalline names, in the mineral click, the stony rattle
of gravel under the scrolling breakers. God speaks the language
of stones. I am a polished stone myself, and he is speaking
my name. With every ripple, every spit of rain that wets a pebble
into its real color, he tells me, I am washing you with salt,
I am grinding you smooth to my touch. With rain I caress
your oval shape, your apricot silk, and show you your true self.
I love this poem for many reasons...
First, for my father who was a true rock hound. I have so many memories of him picking up a rock, licking it to show the true color and then telling me the name of the rock and the family that it belonged to (igneous, etc.). We would go on rock hounding trips to search for specific rocks- agates, petrified wood. No vacation was complete without digging for rock, looking for places to find rocks, or a trip to a rock shop or show.
Second, for the affirmation that we all go through the grinding process. The slow, painful and life-long process of being made into the image of God through difficulties and disappointments.
Third, for the beauty of the words and the hope that I too will one day be as beautiful as a gleaming tumbled and polished rock...
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