Still Being Mothered by Stones

Steve Roberts color photo: stone sculpture of Madonna and child

My appreciation of motherhood has grown since I started wrestling stones a few years ago.  These jewels of the Vermont landscape remind me that life is a practice of bringing the kindest heart we can to every moment we have, and that to do so demands a very special relationship with the earth, the Big Mother.  Some stones are mothers at their best: fearless, relentless.  I’ve got the scars to prove it. 

One day, for no particular reason, I started picking up and replacing the “droppings” that had tumbled from the many rock walls built on our land during the past two centuries.  Next thing I know I’ve got a crowbar and a tractor with a bucket, I’ve worn out a bushel of work gloves, I’m schlepping boulders that can weigh more than a sumo wrestler, and I’m dotting our 200-acre mountainside with rock formations that suggest the artifacts of a pre-historic culture––or a fellow with definitely too much time on his hands.  I’m like a man with a hammer in a nail factory. 

Along the way stones have become my teachers, and not just the ones that spark some pretty colorful epithets when they roll on my fingers or drop on my toes.

The inevitable despair that comes from trying to make a stone do something against its nature has led me to become a better listener, more fluid in letting go of preconceptions, and more able simply to be an instrument in service to something larger than myself. 

But the biggest thing I’ve learned from stones is that to be a listener, to be fluid, to be an instrument, doesn’t happen by just thinking about it––I must also allow myself to be mothered by the earth, the ultimate nurturer. 

Those who say we can destroy the earth are mistaken, it seems to me.  Don’t get me wrong: we can surely make the planet uninhabitable, and seem to be moving in that direction with mindless alacrity.  But destroying the earth is something else again.  Whether Hiroshima or Chernobyl or Hurricane Irene, the earth heals her wounds relatively quickly.  I have a feeling that if every nation detonated its entire stockpile of weapons and unleashed every poison possible, we humans might cease to exist, but some number of millennia down the road––hardly a blink in the universal scheme of things––Mother Earth herself would be thriving once again. 

Such is her resilience, her power, as well as the depth of her urging for us to live in conscious harmony with that power.

Of course, awareness of this truth is one thing, action another––as I demonstrate regularly when some rock extravaganza about which I am oh-so-proud collapses with a noise that, to my ear, sounds suspiciously like a chuckle.  

Among the spiritual practices I’m attempting to get the hang of is navigating my moments resting in the energetic embrace of the mother.  From this grounded place, on those rare occasions when I actually remember to choose it, an amazing thing happens.  My mind lives in service of my heart, rather than the other way around.  The gift of this shift is that I manage with a measure of grace the fear and pain that arise in the natural course of events. 

The big plan for my life is simply to choose more of these moments. 

As my love affair with stones grows, I experience an awakening that is both beautiful and terrifying, since it requires loosening my attachment to any view of how things have to be.  Which is why, as powerful as Big Mother is, I sometimes wonder if she’s more powerful than denial.  I can ignore her with the best of them.  I’ve got the scars to prove it.


  1. Steve,
    This is so beautiful and, not surprisingly, resonates strongly with all of us moving into letting go of expectations and listening to the heart… thank you for sharing this inspiring mothers’ day essay.

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"I honor that we are killing the earth for the same reason I consider being an alcoholic a privilege: it is a doorway to the profound self-understanding required to make truly healthy choices."

The Essay: Honoring the Killing of the Earth