Ode to Stone

Oh stone you that are forever and yet slowly sifting through the sieve of time like the grains of sand squeezing their way inside the hourglass... no way out till it's broken...

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I feel very sore…

Is it because of the gale force wind from that gully today, or is it because I walked a few hundred meters carrying my one ton camera bag? (Long gone are the times when I used to carry my daughter on my shoulders from Te Papa!) I do remember that the stones I had collected were generously brought back to the car by my esteemed peers into whale bones hunting, so if it’s not all that then what is it?

Whatever it is, sore and all, it feels really good ; I’m also like 8,000,000 years wiser after holding one of those whale bones in my hands… What an experience to be near these rocks today! Many of the bones in question (now petrified) are embedded in the boulders from the beach… just next to the fault line that runs through the place we visited.

Petrified by the way, means of stone. My ancestors called a stone “o piatră” and the name Petre means Stones – translated of course as Pietro, Piedro, Pedro, Peter.

I really wish to have been able to do more of these field trips when I was at school… or at uni. Alas our field trip at uni were taking place on the real vineyard fields … (endless at home) – let’s not squirrel here … mind you the wine that came with them was truly remarkable. Actually, a lot of geology is embedded into the wine making! :). From choosing the soil, which has to be really poor, and stony, and located in a very sunny place, to the amazing formula transforming the energy of the light inside crucibles of chloroplasts into organic compounds… and then the transmutation of these into wine… That’s how you truly capture the Sun Mr Maui 🙂 and then you lock it into the quartz of the glass, but I’m sure you know that already.

The grape wine rests its root on the stone, which is a star in a permanent form.

Stones, and endless fields of shells, and pinnacles, and shells, and more pinnacles, in an incredible combination of solid matter, yet it doesn’t’ feel hard to imagine that we are actually walking on the bottom of a sea! Which once was … How can shells be so amazing? How can they carry that water world everywhere, even after it’s gone? The reminiscence of the ocean’s turmoil is right there in the coils of these tiny fossils.

And the most mesmerising thing out of all these for me are the clear boundaries of all these eras, of all the violent, pressure-driven events. After spending my whole life around them, boundaries 🙂 moving from place to place, working for biosecurity, dreaming of space… I can see so clearly how boundaries define what pressure models. I first learned about pressures in a conceptual way from the Bene Gesserit teachings of Dune. I guess, I looked at boundaries all my life, always wanting to go beyond my own, but upwards. I never could find the arguments to judge either side over the other, I preferred to be an observer, to understand all that was there. A bit like Commander Hadfield looking to find the great Chinese wall from the ISS. Hey,  after all, my favourite god is Janus – the God of Gates and Passages, of Beginnings and Ends, he who looks as one in the past and in the present. I carry his name too … Ioana …

So… about boundaries…

Since Julian told me all about the K-Pg boundary (Cretaceous boundary, that carries the blast of the last mass extinction) I’ve lost a lot of sleep thinking about it. It seems time is literally captured in these rocks and we can see its marks all over Earth including here in New Zealand! Dinosaur world versus Human world…  and a boundary less than a centimetre wide in some places, packed with iridium … how fragile and how powerful this shift! And marked in stone!

What is it about about these rocks, that I can’t live without? … their steadiness, their constancy, how they feel hard and immutable even when they are rolling under my feet massaging the skin and sometimes scratching the hell out of me, still, in a very solid way… ? Or maybe my fascination is epigenetic because my great-issimus grandfather was a stone carver? And I’m simply continuing his thing… I didn’t even think about this until today! The stone that goes to your bone. And in exchange, here on the beach lays the bone that has been captured inside the stone!! Stones are about permanence and I love the feeling of that. Yet stones can be softly carved by the velvety sea and they can be weathered by the soft air…

Oh stone
you  that are forever and
slowly sifting
sieve of time
like the grains of
sand squeezing their way
                 inside the hourglass…
   no way out till it’s broken.


What do stones teach me? To obey or break my boundaries. To treasure silence in a world of introverts, and enjoy thinking out loud in the other, beyond everything, stones have taught me patience. Watching the stone grow … takes more patience than watching the grass grow… Sand and water together create concretions … a bit bigger here than those at MDRS but still stunning and perfectly round. And what are these concretions (other than another stone-obsession of mine)? They are round things which grow together (see the definition – con crestere).


Concretions are perfect, isn’t it sphere the most perfect shape? See, I have this other ancestor who was into stones, my great-grand uncle, and he was really amazing at what he did with them and how he explained about what he was up to. He said once that he “… ground[ed] matter to find the continuous line. And when …[he]… realised …[he]… could not find it, …[he]… stopped, as if an unseen someone had slapped …[his]… hands.”  Times like this, I’m wondering what he would have made of all this science. He said that he looked for the essence of things his entire life, what on Earth am I doing here on this beach? What am I looking for?

“There are idiots who define my work as abstract;” he said, “yet what they call abstract is what is most realistic. What is real is not the appearance, but the idea, the essence of things.”

The essence of things

The essence of things is right here in the front of our eyes on this beach and it reminds me of his work once again. Yes, I too call that work and not art. The table of silence is made of concretions cut in half, the column of infinity is there to help people look above their boundaries – is the sky elevator imagined by Arthur C. Clarke, and the kiss is… well, just a kiss but is also when the boundaries melt.


What an amazing place, these Pinnacles, which were once another bottom of another sea… and how peaceful I felt being there at the end of the world, in New Zealand marvelling about the perfection of the stones while hunting for long-dead whales….