May/June 2017 • Vol. XXXIX No. 3 Nature's NatureMay 1, 2017 |

A Philosophy of Stones

Look for a stone. This stone could be bedrock or sandy landfill that liquefies in quakes. It could be carved limestone stacked into disintegrating columns at Delphi, or granite walls terracing the mountains of Machu Picchu, or sculpted marble limbs on pedestals in the Louvre. It could be glacial moraine worn down from retreating ice. It could be red sandstone cliffs of Zion, rippling into ribbons of rust and carving out cathedral-like caverns. For most of my life, I wasn't attracted to stones. My grandmother moved boulders almost daily in the high-desert country above Coarsegold in central California. In what seemed her godforsaken garden, she arranged stones at dawn or dusk, before or after the heat of high noon baked the hills to dust. The stones seemed barren and inert, dried fistfuls that could break a human back or crack a rattlesnakes skull. Her terse stories of five generations in California (summed up by her motto, "Life is tough in the Far West") followed her on campi

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Gretchen Henderson
Gretchen E. Henderson is the author of four books, most recently Ugliness: A Cultural History (Reaktion Books of London/University of Chicago Press, 2015). She teaches at Georgetown University and was the 2015–16 Hodson Trust–JCB Fellow at Brown University and Washington College. This essay is part of her longer work in progress titled Philosophy of Stones: A Lyric Archaeology.

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