The Myth of the Wandering Stone

Jul 5, 2017

The wind is whistling, rushing past
My head. I stand
Outside the stones, sentinels in a circle.


Once, they say, sixteen stones stood.
The tallest had a twin;
The smallest a sister; 
The one far apart, a distant cousin.

Now only 13 remain, a broken circle, the unlucky or the luckiest. The sister it seems
Migrated to a field a few sheep over, a step to scramble over a fence. The cousin
Broke into pieces from inborn fractures, 
destined to be kicked apart by eager children scrambling after a renegade dog. 

But the twin has disappeared.

Perhaps it was noticed, desired by a king, 
placed under the high table in a mead-filled hall. 

Perhaps it was decided by the farmer plowing it would make a nice addition to the church, who loaned his oxen to drag it into town. 

Perhaps it was felled by a breakaway current, a river bursting its banks that demanded a sacrifice from the ancient circle.


A stone has many uses: to construct, obstruct, 
Apply order, or create chaos. Kill or remember, hold warmth or mark a chill.

The twin could have become a foundation stone for merchant’s new home
Or a form lying in a street marking a place where no carts were to roam.

It could have marked the place the town crier ascended to bring news to towns
Or tumbled a cart of carrots onto the downs.

It could have fallen on a hapless wanderer, another case of death by misadventure
Or been placed above the body of a beloved mother, inscribed with her name and tenure. 

It could have been the base of a hearth, holding heat in on cold nights
Or been polished to perfection, smooth and cold to the touch, 
The base of a column rising to great heights. 

But whatever it’s use, the greater intention is permanence:
Stones are not used lightly.

They’re heavy to move
And take precision to hew, 
The structures they create 
can survive millennia.

Yet stones can wander off:
Permanence compels no form. 

The walls they make may remain long past the residents have passed
The grave marker may outlast the words cut carefully into its surface
The border stone may tumble away, to become just another boulder 
Set in the surface of the landscape.

Stones last, but in their longevity, lose their past.

Who cut it and why, where it stood, how many people caressed its surface
Breathed on it, 
touched it, 
felt its smoothing, 
roughening, cracking, mossy sides 

under their fingers, made it come alive –

But where is it now?


The twin has wandered off. 

Two paths to permanence: remain or reemerge
As something new and ever changing. 

The tallest holds its head up. It supports the past, the human landscape, resists the rain, the grass, the baaing sheep. 

It calls out across the landscape: I am here.

The twin bows down its head. It embraces the future, the wanderings it will complete in its future incairnations, it’s modified forms, and the uses it will have. 

It cries out: I am ready.


Stepping into the circle there’s a momentary stillness. The wind dies, only for a moment, but long enough to hear 
the whisperings
of the timeless stones.

The tallest, smallest, far away, and near by, 
unite to quietly declare their presence. 
The lives they’ve seen, the years that trickle away 
with no more notice than the soft drip,
drip, of a light summer rain

Wash over me. Those lives, and now mine, are kept in the stories of these stones, 
forever present here.

But soon the wind returns, rustling through the ferns and grasses, 
carrying to this place the voices of the wandering stones.

These felt the roughness of human hands, 
tumbled through time 
beaten by rivers and seas, and keep moving until 
at last 
they are fully dust 
that floats and settles on the breeze. 

They chorus with the things they’ve seen and the places they’ve been, 
forever being used.


But the wind dies, the voices fade. 

The circled stones
When all have passed on by, discuss:

Who will wander next?