Finding Tom

I always enjoy the workshops and rituals availed to me at Laurelin Retreat, but sometimes it’s the unscheduled times that are the most educational.

On a personal note, my family is having a housewarming party coming up, and because the owners of Laurelin would not be able to attend, I asked if they could give me what we’ve been asking for as a gift regardless: a stone, no smaller than two fists.

Laurelin is fifty-six acres of rolling woods and farmland, crisscrossed with stone walls that now or formerly marked arbitrary boundaries and, like any good New England soil, will yield two good crops of rock a year. There are a lot of stones at Laurelin, and finding the right one for my yard was probably going to take some doing.

Fortune smiled upon me by giving me a companion, Noodleman, who was in need of a Fool’s Errand to complete. My plan had been to supply any number of pictures and make this into a photojournal of our quest. However, I lost the camera immediately after returning home, finding it again in time for a party, only to have it vanish once again, so I don’t expect to be able to give that thousand-to-one ratio promised by pictures. It’s been a week and this post isn’t finished, so I’m just going to have to do this with words alone.

One of the things that’s nice about Laurelin is the plethora of stone walls. Any old agrarian area is going to have them, and central Vermont is no exception. Farmers and landsmen of all sorts learned the art of stacking irregular stones in such a way as to make sturdy boundaries between fields, both marking territory and relocating stones out of plow’s way. I’ve been trying to relearn those skills in the past few days with the stones I’ve been discovering in my compost pile.

None of the stone walls held my interest, and the searching up and down the various streams didn’t find a stone that called out an interest in moving to the Hudson Valley. Finally, we cleared our heads with a solid period of time sitting upon a soft carpet of moss, with no stones in reach.

When we did decide to return to camp, the first stone to catch my eye was perfect. It was sitting on a stone wall along the old road, its top half covered in moss that was populated by inch-long, rust hairs among the bright green carpet. It was in a dry area which was well-shaded, the types of conditions that are abundant in my yard, and particularly in the place where I’m cultivating my moss garden.

“His name is Tom,” Noodleman told me.

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