Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every hillside, every valley, every clearing and wood, is holy in the memory and experience of my people. Even those unspeaking stones on the shore are loud with events and and memories in the life of my people. The ground beneath your feet responds more lovingly to our steps than yours, because it is the ashes of our kin.
Chief Seattle ( adapted by Wm. Arrowsmith)
The 'unspeaking stones upon the shore' that Chief Seattle spoke of have always drawn me to them. The long passage of time represented here, the shortness of my own life and the thousands of years of the native people's association with these beaches has always given a solemnity, a broader context to their assemblages. Indian stories where stones become something else and then transform back again have always seemed right, have established a cultural connection that we newcomers lack. For us, stones are just stones and we are the poorer for it.
Some time ago I scrambled down the rocky foreshore and out into the weedy world of the low tide beach. I was drawn by a large boulder that had split in half and peered into the crack. The sea surged in its depths, pieces of rock were wedged down there and, being male, what I saw was female genitalia, with all the bits and pieces arranged to perfection. Rock had transformed for me, just as it did for the original inhabitants, who's stories were more frank and straight forward than our own confused ideas around sexual matters.
That transformation story that I participated in down at the low tide zone opened my mind to seeing the rocky shoreline as a vast reclining goddess, bathed in the ocean, made of the earth and facing into the sky . Was this just my fancy, my imagination? Was this simply a collection of rocks? If so, was I the poorer for that limitation, less able to relate to the landscape? What stories will my European culture be able tell about our own relationship with this land even when many generations have left their ashes to blow upon the wind?