Even the Stones Will Cry Out

I was feeling very down one evening as I made my weekly Sunday evening stroll along the coast. Not even the stunning orange sunset, the blue waters, the lineup of majestic and powerful yachts and boats, or the laughter of children playing in the water could lift my spirits. These are all well and good things. My own life was especially well and good, too, to an extent. A fine but breaking family; fine but unsatisfactory work; good but glib and superficial people to be associated with. There was an overhanging mood that sapped the energy out of all these well and good things. That overhanging mood made for an exhausting world to live in. No one – and I mean no one; you will be hard-pressed to find a single neighborhood that shared any values in common – could get along with each other on a deep level. Every interaction was vanity, for everyone acted as their own teacher of life, and followed themselves as their own truth giver. And out beyond the confines of what was civilized was a brutal and violent world. If there was not a war happening somewhere, there would be rumors of one about to unfold. Those were just the problems with everyone else. I had my own issues. I no longer found joy in much of anything. I was becoming a malevolent person who wanted to have colleagues put down in shame and misery. I desired for family members to feel sorrow and guilt for the trivial things they do. I was waxed glad when people in power were exposed and raked over the coals of public mockery.

I sat on the only bench within sight along the promenade near the harbor. The sharp heat of the setting sun roasted my neck as I looked to my left to see these parked, majestic boats bobbing up and down in the tide; to my right I could hear the clanging of dishes and glasses and the ringing laughter of men and women at a restaurant. Shade and shadows casted by the setting sun fell on everything before me. Whereas my neck and head were sweating from the heat behind me, my face was cool from the evening sea breeze and the comfort of the purple darkness sans sun. Everything around me appeared to be, sounded to be, and seemed to be well and good. But the hanging dread of the world’s faults and my own malevolence was becoming too overbearing.

Then an older voice called to me.

“May I sit with you?” said a man to my right. An older, gray-haired man stood there, wearing a button-down shirt much too big for him, dusty khaki shorts, and a blue backpack. He shuffled in his flip-flops slowly and painfully towards me. Through it all, he wore a friendly smile.

“Sure,” I said to him. I moved over to allow him space to sit.

“Thank you,” he said. He sat, grunting as he did so for it took him a bit of effort to move his body to the bench and a bit of grit to allow himself to freefall backwards into a seating position. “Thank you,” he said again.

“Not at all,” I said. I went back to my wallowing – not that I could help it, it was overbearing.

From the corner of my eye I could see the man sitting contently, even with a smile on his face. He watched the boats in the harbor and the children playing in the water. It seemed enough for him. If he was looking back at me through the corner of his eye, he would see that I was not content and likely wore a pitiful pout on my face.

After a few quiet moments between us, he looked over to me. “You seem troubled.”

“Sorry?” I said to suggest I did not hear him clearly the first time around, but I did in fact hear him without fault.

“I don’t mean to be invasive,” the man said with a sincere cautionary look and tone, “but I get the sense that something is wrong.”

“No, no, it’s fine,” I said. “I am alright. Just a… just a long day, I guess.”

“Understood,” the man said kindly. He went back to watching the harbor, and I went back to feeling down, though I tried to conceal it as best I could. However, now the presence of another human being so near to me begat the intolerable feeling in life where I felt obligated to create conversation.

“I must be frank with you,” I said to the man, who turned his full attention to me, still bearing that friendly smile, “it’s not often anymore that a complete stranger like yourself would ask another person if he was ‘alright.’”

The man nodded. “It is rare,” he confirmed. “I remember a good friend would ask how I was doing. I would say, ‘doing good, thanks’. But he would dig in and ask, ‘Really? You’re really doing well?’ It was always disarming, because then you had to assess deeply and truly if things are going well or not. That taught me to honestly think about myself and my situation.”

“I bet you’re right,” was all I could respond with.

“He was a good man. I was young when I knew him. Then I grew older and abandoned all forms for human decency and understanding of purpose, like the rest of society.”

“You’re right on that,” I said. “No decency. No purpose. There’s plenty more that we are lacking today. I can’t remember the last time I spoke with someone who was genuinely thrilled to be alive. Not even my own wife or kids have this. My kids are older than those young kids splashing in the water; they don’t know any better yet. And those kids are lucky to even be there in the water. They’re lucky to be permitted to be born in the first place! We don’t value life. Not at all. We don’t value life. Hell, if we do decide to bring children to the earth, they’re subjected to the lies and the violence in our world. They’re subjected to the ever-changing norms of what is acceptable and good and fulfilling. We don’t know what we want. I don’t know what I want. I’ve changed jobs so frequently that it seems I can’t get past the onboarding process at any place. Glued to media, glued to lies about others. It’s every man after their own way. I long for something real, really. I don’t know what I’m looking for.” My spiel was met with the sound of clanging boat gear. I withheld the bits about myself being malevolent and sinister. “Sorry for that.”

The man looked at me with caring eyes and that same friendly smile, his hands folded together over the backrest of the bench to support him up as he leaned in to me. Quite unusual for anyone to be in such close physical space of a stranger, even if a friendly stranger. Even more unusual to see someone express a genuine ear to hear.

“I am going to tell you a story which I think will cheer you up. You may be cheered up because the story I will tell you holds, I believe, significant truth, or that it will give you some hope, or, at the least, you’ll be amused by the absurdity of the story, or at the least of all you’ll be glad to know that you are not as crazy as you think I am after I tell you this story. Is that alright with you?”

“Sure,” I said.

“Well,” he said, “I grew up as this aimless and pitiful character you’ve just described. I too had a good family, but I lived only for myself. I didn’t care about my sisters, my brothers, my oft-sick father or my overworking mother. I cared only enough about them so that they wouldn’t outright despise me. I cared only for my own pleasures. What’s in it for me? That was the question driving my life. If it makes me happy, I’ll do it. That was the motor captaining my way.

“I left the confines of the goodly home and sought job after job after job; chased after woman after woman; fled from mistake after mistake. It was a thrilling, exhausting adulthood. Nothing would ever satisfy that want, you know? You mentioned you didn’t know what you wanted – what society wants. I can attest to that. I lived in constant pursuit of centering the world around me.

“You remember that friend I was telling you about, who would ask ‘are you really alright?’ He was an ever-present thorn in my side. The good man would be there by my side whenever I would make the biggest mistakes, or commit something egregious towards someone else. He somehow could see through all the nonsense I was doing, for he would always be there to help me set myself right. He refocused my attention on a certain transcendent power, a transcendent purpose. That would work for a bit, but then I would fall right back into the maze of self-aggrandizement and vanity. Work hard, earn a lot, love everyone yet no one at the same time.

“I ended up working so hard and earning so much that I became the most sought-after consultant in my field. I got to the point where I didn’t really have to work at all – I got to tell others how to work harder and better. A client in the South Pacific called for my services, so I got a flight to go down there. Wouldn’t you know it? It was the same flight that crashed onto a remote Pacific island all those years back. Yes, that crash. I tell you, I was always afraid of dying back then, but going through the process of possibly dying is an unbearable emotional sequence of experiences!

“By what I called luck and chance back then, I was one of the handful of survivors. We crawled out of the wreckage, bruised and bloodied, and came together in the darkness of night on the beach. During that time, I saw both the worst and the best from man and woman. The worst when we were fighting our way out of the wreckage: men and women were brutal to each other, like it was a competition to see who could get out of the fire first. There were winners, and there were losers. But yet there were good men and women helping others out. I was a fortunate one to had been helped by a loving hand to pull me up from under rows of detached seats which kept me down. I never saw the face of the one who helped me out, and to this day I do not know where that person is.

“There was so much weeping, and cuts and blood. It was a stark contrast from what we were used to – what you must be used to now, my young friend. We were an unthankful, unloving, unforgiving society. However, so it seems, surviving a plane wreck will make you thankful of being able to draw breath; it will make you a loving person to another man. But we were still an unforgiving lot. And who did we blame? We blamed someone that had not been a consideration in our minds or in our way of life for many, many years: God. We screamed at God, and we cursed God collectively for what had happened. I had not heard God’s name be used in any way for many, many years prior to that. Now it was the time we call on God? And it wasn’t your usual and empty cursing of god damn it or anything like that. We were letting God know directly what we thought of him and what happened. It still struck me as odd to hear people utter God’s name in a time like that. I found it more odd that we were cursing a god no one believed existed. You can’t mention God in a school or in a public sphere anymore without treading on someone’s personal feelings, let alone risk arrest these days. Only my old friend who would ask keenly how I was doing would say God’s name. But after surviving a tragedy, I guess we felt justified to call on God, but then subsequently ravage him with curses.

“Without the fire from the burning wreckage, the island would have been cast into pitch-blackness. Many became afraid of the jungle behind us. It was like a void – darker than the closing of your eyes in a dark room. The survivors and I mourned and cried and counted our lucky stars to have been alive. We offered a moment of tribute to those who didn’t make it. Our adrenaline pushed by fear and anxiety kept us up through the night and until the sun outshone the blaze of our once-flying vessel.

“Then we could see the majesty of that island. It’s funny how light exposes and rids of the evils of the darkness! We felt a certain comfort from the white sands of the shore we rested on – like it were the clean sheets of a large bed. The dark void that was the jungle was proven to be rather a green and luscious habitat for the most diverse cast of birds and critters one would could ever see. No zookeeper could collect such diversity of wildlife! Sadly, though, the wreckage of the plane blotted out some of the beauty. Oils and debris spilled from the plane and tainted the otherwise opaque waters. Above, the sky was opaque, too – that I remember clearly. So many of us had never seen nature in its virgin state. It was the first time some survivors had ever been in an untainted and natural ecosystem. The beauty of the island had a certain calming effect on us, and certainly there were no words any of us could say at that time to calm our nerves and comfort our souls.

“As that fear and loathing subsided from us, hunger and thirst crept in. Desperate for something to eat, we ventured together into the depths of the jungle. There were about a dozen of us, by the way. At first the going was slow. We would past the first line of trees, which were dressed in greenery and exotic flowers that we assumed something edible had to be growing off of them. But no one was brave enough to nibble on the bulbs that grew from the standing wall of trees, nor strong enough to crack open the nuts or from the ground. So we kept going in deeper. And deeper.”

The man paused his story, and he also paused his squirming and hand gesturing that accentuated certain elements of the story. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. I waited, figuring that a tragic life event such as the travails of a plane crash would invite again some recessional horrors and bad memories.

He opened his eyes and returned to the story:

“The deeper into the jungle we went, the more bizarre things became – and it is this part of the story that you may find enlightening either for the truth that I found there or at the expense of me as a perceived crazy man.

“The buzz and chatter of the jungle was stark and loud at first, but the more time we spent on the island the more it became just that: buzz and chatter. Background noise. Like I said, many of us knew not a buzz of noise different than the 5-o’clock traffic or what we would listen to in our earbuds at our respective office jobs. Birds and bugs and critters chirping and clicking and cawing and crowing was deafening at first, but then it became background noise for us as we were so focused on finding something to eat.

“But as we went deeper into the jungle, the chatter of wildlife began to sound not so wild, but rather something distinct; something our human ears could pick up on, something our brains could cull meaning out of.

“There was a shout from above in the canopy of the jungle. Now, we had just earlier seen little monkeys swing about the trees, and they had been making their monkey noises earlier. But this shout was different from their earlier hooting. I heard it again. And again. I asked my fellow survivors if they heard it, and they did, but they assumed it was another odd noise of the island.

“I feared I was getting crazy – getting too hungry and exhausted from the ordeal of falling out of the sky in a burning tube of metal and onto a remote island. But again, and again, I heard this shout, and every time it came, the noise, or rather the voice, became more clear.

“’Glory! Glory!’ That is what I heard, and the survivors heard it, too. It was not just me going crazy at the least, I thought. Others were hearing this shout of ‘glory.’

“Then the voices came from the ground amongst us! In the bushes and up ahead in the thicket we could hear ‘Glory! Glory!’ And then they were saying things like ‘Praise! Praise!’ We cautiously assumed we still had our wits about us. We concluded two things were happening: we were encountering undocumented animals on this island untouched by man’s machines, or we were hearing the natives. The more often we heard these noises and voices, we were becoming convinced that the native population were the source of it, and we became very afraid.

“We argued if we should continue onwards through the jungle. One side made the argument of yes, we should, for maybe these natives will help us. The other side said, ‘no, the natives will skin us.’ Well then, some said, if there were humans willing to help, why didn’t they come running to us when they saw or heard our plane crash into their home? If they came to kill us, why didn’t they do it already? We bickered back and forth until the next night fell. We were far too deep into the jungle to know which way was left and which was right. We could vaguely make out the way which we came, but a journey back to the beach was out of the question for many of us. Who knew what monstrosity had come to close the path behind us, waiting to pounce on us? We decided to stay put like cowering dogs.

“I tell you I’ve never witnessed such darkness in my life before. Without the fire, the void that was the jungle was even more menacing, more brooding. We had nothing to alight our way or make light for our own comfort. The slightest chirp of a cricket sounded like a roar of a lion, or the creaking of the trees above us sounded like the growling of a beast. Mighty men were we in the streets of our own jungle, but we were made to look like mice or stranded children when in a proper jungle!

“Some went crazy. We were so thirsty that we were trying to squeeze whatever water could come out of the mud beneath our feet, or lap up the dew from the branches leftover by the extreme, humid heat of the island. Two other men began to wrestle and fight each other over what they thought was food – turned out to be another unbreakable nut. Every so often one of us would say something calming such as ‘we just have to stick together, and we’ll be fine’, or ‘we have to believe in hope.’ That had no affect on anybody – it was just empty words.

“The faint calls of ‘Glory!’ and ‘Praise!’ could still be heard, and the latter triggered some in our group to start to think that we needed to praise the island beneath us for safety. One preached that we were lucky to have crashed on a pristine and virgin island such as this – one not ravaged by our human hands – and that this island was the purest form of nature. Nature was the victim, and we the transgressor. This guy said we should praise the island. Give thanks to the island for giving us footing to walk on, footing to survive on. This convinced many in our group, and they began to hum and sing sweet nothings to the trees and the dirt.

“I was not convinced. So far, nature hadn’t fed us yet. How could we praise it?” he laughed, and I laughed, too, but I wasn’t sure why. “But that was not why I was convinced, really. All these empty words of hope and praising nature were not ringing true to me – they weren’t giving me the calmness that I had.”

The man had another long, meditative pause before continuing:

“I kept thinking about my friend. He always had a skip in his step. He was always there for me when I was down and out, despite he having just lost a child, having just lost his job, or whatever the case was for the poor guy. He lived in hope. And not because of songs or clichéd phrases, but because he lived for something higher.

“Thinking of him made me think about one phrase that he would say quiet often. It didn’t sound so clichéd at all when he would say it to me back in the day. It went something like ‘even if I walk through the dark valleys, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.’ Maybe you’ve heard it before? My friend would say things like that through all the stress and tragedies of his own life. He was someone who really did have hope. You could see hope living in him, and through him, and it touched others. He was quite a remarkable man.

“Anyways, on the island, my fellow survivors were caught up in their own circle of songs and good vibes, but you could sense that there was tension between all of them. There was fear of the unknown and of the darkness still in them. There was mourning and sorrow that we were separated from the world and our families while stuck on this island. But they kept singing songs and quoting inspirational gurus and ancient mystics all through the night to keep themselves calm.

“I laid down on the cold, muddy earth and listened to them for a bit, but those words of my friend kept drowning out the soothsaying songs of the others. Out in the void of the jungle, I could still hear ‘Glory!’ and ‘Praise!’ being cried out. And now here is where you might take me for a crazy person, if you haven’t already! As I was laying down on the earth and was trying to focus on those voices out in the void, I could feel as though the mud and grass beneath me were moving, were talking, were living under me. There was a comfort in the earth that I had never experienced before. It felt as if I was on the largest and softest of beds the grandest hotels could offer you – my body was at ease, and my mind at peace. It was as if the earth pulled me into its arms for a comforting embrace. I could also hear voices in the earth as well. ‘Glory’ and ‘praise’ were being sung above me in the void, and beneath me, and through me; I also heard the words ‘holy’ and ‘honor’ reverberate through the mud. I had not heard those kind of words before in ages! I didn’t know if any of these words were being directed towards something or anyone, but hearing these words ring out from the world and earth and the dark nothingness was oddly reassuring to me – assuring to me that everything will be fine.

“Then, one voice spoke out far clearer than all the others. As clear as your voice now. This voice was over to my right side, and I rolled over to get a close ear to it. I could not find it immediately since it was so dark, but it became louder and more clear to me as I did roll over. I patted around the earth like a man who lost his glasses, in an effort to find this thing that was singing to me. I could feel nothing but the cold, wet mud. Then I did feel it – something jagged and heavy, something the size of a handball. A stone was there; it was heavy, and sharp on some edges and jutting points, but also with smooth faces on all sides. I brought the stone close to me, feeling a satisfactory feeling from it like you would when holding a thick and juicy sandwich with luscious greens while hungry (which we still were very hungry at this point, by the way). I then brought the stone close to my ear, and heard:

                ‘Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.

“This phrase came from the stone over and over again. Over, and over again. And immediately I was reminded of what my friend would tell me, and he was convinced of this: what I am about to tell you. He would say, ‘We are now living in a world where we have not only forgotten who our creator is, but we actively reject him.’ He would also say, ‘we are in perilous times. We are lovers of ourselves, and no one else. We are boasters, and proud. We call evil things good, and good things evil. In fact, we despise things which are good. We deny a higher power, but act like we are the higher power. And all of these things are driving us from the Lord in heaven. We are in a time where if we continue to keep silent and hold our tongues from confessing who the Lord is, that even the stones will immediately cry out.’”

“That last part came to mind straightaway after hearing words from a stone. What a peace I had after that! I can’t explain why I felt so much peace. I jumped to my feet and ran to – rather into – the nearest person. I gave them the stone, and urged them to listen, and then to another person, and to another. And they could hear it, too! But instead of it giving them the same peace that I had, they began to panic. They were now convinced they were dehydrated, and too hungry to be thinking clearly. They reasoned that it was some sort of strange trick with the vibrations of the earth and the air. Nonsense, I told them! This was not a seashell playing back sounds of the ocean kind of trick. This stone was saying something, and those voices in the void were singing to something.

“The morning light came and illuminated where we were. It turned out that we weren’t far from a clearing up ahead. But before we could make the collective decision to move on, we were caught in a stamped of animals and critters and birds! All running past us and towards this clearing. I then, I tell you, the voices and songs were ever more clear. ‘Glory to him in the highest!’ ‘Praise be his name!’ ‘Holy, holy, holy!’ As clear as the blue sky above us were these words, and the animals were saying these things! The words came from them. I could see it, and my fellow survivors could, too. We ran after the animals into the clearing. They all gathered together in a mass congregation. Monkeys big and small, blue and purple and yellow birds, lemurs, beetles, things I had never seen before nor could ever name. All there, running amok like animals do, but singing those words: ‘Glory! Honor! Praise!’ It was like a zoo and the Oxford Chamber Choir merged into one body. None of us had ever seen anything like it. We were speechless, breathless. Some moved to tears. One fell to their knees and sobbed deeply. The performance of the animals was awe-inspiring. We took no notice and care that it was otherwise bizarre to see non-human creature singing actual words. Many had never left the city and seen animals like this in any capacity, let alone together singing songs of praise to the king!

“Just then, the animals scattered every which way into the wild. Their song had stopped and was replaced by the thundering pitter-patter of helicopters dropping into the clearing. The Aussies and the Kiwis found us, and we briskly taken up and away, and eventually back to our homes. Gone only twenty-four hours, we were. We were fed and watered on the flight to a naval ship about an hour’s distance away. The authorities were asking us questions on who we were, what happened, did we know of survivors, and so on. None of us could hardly speak. If you found my surviving cohorts now, they would not admit it, I tell you, but I knew that at that time they were in awe, we were all in awe, of what was seen. I could see in the helicopter some bowing their heads and muttering prayers to themselves, other staring blankly at the floor or out the window.

“For me? I can tell you that my soul and my mind were at such a level of peace that I could hardly contain it. I told every officer, every aid worker, every reporter, every person on the street, everyone I would meet about this. About the creatures of land and air, and the little things that creep on the ground, and even the stones were buzzing with reverence and admiration for something higher than all of them. And all of us! It changed me. It changed me back to the person I used to be when I was very young. It brought me back to the creator. It brought me back to the Lord our God.

“And so, my friend, I tell you this story because I believe that we are meant to be bigger and better than the frivolities and egotisms of this broken world. We were made to sing praises and give glory to the one who made everything. The one who made those animals and stones to sing; the one who made that island than was our landing pad; the one made you and me. The one who has a plan for us, to keep us and guide us. I understand your frustration. And, if I may assume, you have some struggles of wandering aimlessly and without purpose? I had those, too. I was a wandering and cynical and self-destructive dolt who boarded the plane, who became a scared and pitiful and wretched creature when crashed on that island. I then became a new creation, a new man, because I remembered the Lord our God. And so, my friend, that is my message to you. You are a great and wonderful creation of God. Come to him – or come back to him.”

The man removed his hands from the backrest of the bench and sat straightforward, looking ahead at the boats and the children in the harbor. All the while, that same friendly smile was carved into him. He waited patiently for my response.

This was my response, delivered with rebuke and scorn that was pitted in me: “With all due respect, sir, thank you for your kindness and for that story. You’re a likeable man. I must tell you, though, that shortly into your tale, I came to recognize you. Everyone knows about that plane crash you were on. Everyone knows about it not because of the nature of the crash, or the number dead, or the number of survivors, but because of what was purported to have happened after that crash. The rescued were conjured into a room for the press, and many spoke about their experience of survival and wits, but only you mentioned this entire ordeal of talking animals, and talking rocks! You told this same story to the public several years ago, and not one of the survivors could verify that these things happened.

“So, again, with all respect to you, sir, you are a kind man, but do you expect me to believe your story about talking animals singing songs of admiration to a god that does not exist? I am supposed to believe that animals on a remote, god-forsaken – pardon the pun – island are now the ones having church because public churches have been banned from nearly all civil societies? I am a wondering and lost and malign man, but it is not God who will come to fix that. I am sorry, but I cannot believe that. I don’t mean to be so hostile about it, but I cannot believe it.

“I am sorry. You are a nice man. I am sorry for your experience during the crash and surviving the island. I appreciate that you wanted to speak to me. Good day, sir.”

I stood up and shook the man’s hand before turning around and walking the other way. I felt confused at my sudden agitation towards the man’s story. I had come to recognize the man and his face when he began to explain details of the island and of the animals. He is a man so scorned and mocked by the public that it is truly remarkable for him to brave being out in public at all. Something must have happened to him to make him go a little loopy on that island.

I ventured only a few meters away from the man before I heard him call out to me. “My friend! Wait!” The calling was also in good nature and of warmth because it had filtered through that friendly smile of his, retained by him despite my disagreeable nature. “I want to show you one more thing.”

Half driven by guilt for me slightly rude, and the other half from curiosity, I went back to the man. In the few steps it took to return to him, I cobbled together some sort of an apology, but I could not deliver it in time before he spoke again.

“Here, I want you to have this,” he said, and he reached into his dirty backpack. He pulled out a sizeable stone, jagged on some edges and with smooth faces and cleavages, just like he described in his story. He extended the stone to me. “Take it.”

“No, sir; no thank you, it’s quite alright,” I stuttered.

“I know it’s silly,” he said. “But, I am old, and getting weary. I can’t be carrying around heavy and silly things like this all the time anymore. You take it. You can throw it in the sea, if you’d like. You can take it and place it in your home. Or you can leave it on your desk to remind you of me, that old man with the crazy story. It’s a stone. It’ll serve its purpose, however you use it. Just be kind to this old, silly man and take this heavy thing away from me.”

He thrusted the stone into my arms. I held and beheld it stupidly, not knowing what to think about it or to think about this entire encounter. The man crumpled up his now empty backpack and tucked it under his arm as he stood up. “Take care, my friend. God be with you.” He shuffled away, occasionally stopping to look at the boats and the playing children in the harbor.

I stood there until he was out of sight, still holding the stone out in front of me as if expecting it to pop open with confetti and smoke. The sun set, darkness settled, and I made my move to go home.

I placed that stone out in a prominent place in my garden. It was indeed a nice looking stone that fit well with the roses and tulips my wife and I planted, and I tried to think nothing more of it. But, every time I would go back into the garden, that stone would shine like a light amongst the others. All other stones were just that: stones. But this stone held my attention every time I was near it. It did not do the same for my wife, or my kids, or friends, or relatives to whom I retold the story of how I got it. To them it was just a stone, as stones should be. For me, however, the stone stood as a remembrance of a special encounter with a special man.

It was an afternoon where I was feeling very, very down. My wife had left months ago, my kids were grown and rebellious and uncaring, and my job was still a dead-end job. I was in my garden, the only place where I could find any semblance of solitude, trying not to utterly break down and do something horrific to something, or myself. I was always aware of that stone. There was an ever-present aura coming from that earthly piece of material. It was not talking or singing like the man claimed it did, but its cold and grey, silent self was screaming at me. It always managed to penetrate my present conscientiousness, my current awareness of my surroundings. Consciousness

I went over to the stone and did something I had never done since leaving the stone there near the tulips and crumbling garden gnome figurines: I picked up the stone, and I put it to my ear.

Nothing. The stone said nothing.

I lowered the stone and tried once more. Still nothing.

Dismayed, I discarded the stone to its original resting place. The mystique of the stone was gone. It was just a stone once more, but it made one final call to me. Still no noise came from it, but it had my attention nonetheless. It caused me to project thoughts and memories of the old man, smiling kindly to me, sitting near me and asking if something was troubling me. No one did such a thing nor has done such a thing before or since that time. What a wonderful man, I thought. Crazy? Perhaps. But the man carried himself with grace and hope. I can find no one else today who lives like that.

Thinking back to that encounter, I realized that I became suddenly agitated with the man’s story because I knew it to be true. I did not care that his story had talking animals and stones. Rather, I was unsettled by truth his story professed; the truth about what, or rather who, those things in nature were singing to is what made me so upset. I knew he was speaking the truth.

There in my garden, in my own dense and isolated jungle, I fell to the earth on my knees. A pit of sorrow and brokenness welled within my gut, and tears burst out of my eyes.

I cried to the heavens; and even my heart of stone cried out.

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