Rocks that speak

In my top dresser drawer — you know, the one that collects stuff like tie tacks and Chucky Cheese tokens and old campaign buttons — is a hunk of sandstone. It’s the sort of thing that will puzzle my survivors some day when they are cleaning out my stuff. “Why in the world did he keep this?”

For the record, it’s a fragment of the fireplace from a house where I lived for some of the more liberated years of my youth. It was a house that I helped build and one that was burned down by an arsonist. While poking through the ruins, there was nothing else to salvage, so I took home a rock, a symbol of permanence.

It’s a rock with a story. I bet you have a rock or two like that. Or maybe a few hundred, like Lawrie and Carol Barr of Francestown.

I was their guest recently. I’d been invited to help judge the 2004 Francestown Labor Day Parade, and they prepared an amazing lunch. (Actually a neighbor/chef from the Monadnock School of Natural Cooking and Philosophy volunteered to whip up a little Teppanyaki beef and peach-pear torte for the judges.) Later, Carol showed me around the house and yard and pointed out the stone borders on the flower beds. “Cobblestones from Brooklyn,” she noted.
“They were salvaged when they tore out the asphalt on some old city streets.” Local businessman John Kaufhold, owner of Peterborough Marble & Granite Works, bought a large quantity of them. It turns out that they were quarried just a few miles away in Fitzwilliam.

I told Carol and Lawrie about the retaining wall in front of my family’s home. It’s composed of blocks of New Hampshire granite that once made up the walls of the grand old Concord Train Station before it was torn down for an urban renewal project. My wife’s grandfather even saved enough of them to make a little patio.

A friend in Bow, Eric Anderson, has rocks in his garden that are fragments of a granite pyramid that once stood on a nearby hilltop, the birthplace of Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science. The pyramid was eventually blasted with dynamite when the church determined the monument to be a bit excessive, and a tad weird.

Unfortunately, Eric can no longer be sure which of the rocks in his garden are the ones with such a glorious and violent history, but it still adds a little mystique to his landscaping.

Being the Granite State, New Hampshire has lots of rocks, and has spread this wealth all over the world. Who knows how many stories in distant lands are engraved in stone from our granite hills. Did you know that the Smithsonian Institute and the cornerstone of the United Nations building are both made of New Hampshire granite?

So, as you go forth to admire fall’s beauty and hear the whisper of the wind in the leaves, consider the stone walls and rocky soil as well. Maybe you’ll hear a different kind of whisper, telling the stories of ages past and ages to come, stirring up from the living rock beneath your feet. And maybe you’ll bring home a small stone or two.

Just to remember.