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The Songs of Stones ~

Kristopher Drummond

Ten Mile Lake, Pinter Mountain Backcountry, Montana, USA

I heard a rock sing

Not in my imagination, not as a metaphor. But actually. If anyone else had been around I know they’d have heard too.

I heard a rock sing. And then I forgot. It was an acute moment - two weeks in the desert, stretching open my senses, trying to heed my dreams and embody my most authentic parts. There was a lot of pain. Shame was everywhere. The invitation was to let the land be a mirror, to find the echoes of the parts of myself that live mostly as possibilities. The land showed me hidden selves and core wounds; the way everything I have to give comes from the deepest ache inside and the vast, untapped possibilities I hold within, and ways my heart wants to soften. 

I heard a rock sing, and that matters more than my fear. Or, at least it should.

I’m wondering this morning about the ways I lose sight of the world I see from the center of meaning. Maybe it’s a common human thing. We go to all this work to find our way, spend thousands of dollars to drink bitter concoctions that take us beyond ourselves or sit for hundreds of hours observing the sensations of the breath on the upper lip. All for a taste of freedom and the possibility of fresh flowing life.

I heard the rock sing and felt my mind fighting back, struggling against the song. Rising and popping like a bubble on the surface of my psyche, it was an apprenticeship to the woman inside, the feminine, this presence who comes in my dreams and dances and invites me to feel. The woman filled with eros, who wants to create and feel and weep and fuck and isn’t too concerned about the gender of who she’s fucking. It’s the loss of control implied in something like that - the affront to all the certainty I’ve spent my life pretending I have. It’s the horrifying recognition that I don’t actually choose who I am.

If I said yes all the way to the bottom of everything that I am, would the rocks always be singing? Would life become the kind of song I feel deep in my bones it can be? What would I do about taxes?

I don’t really think about taxes too much, that’s probably something to look at, but the sentence gets my point across. The rock sang and gave me so much to be - ways of becoming, shapeshifting, embodying that would take years if it were a full time job. The nervous system has to stretch for things like this. Lots of therapy hours. Walking up to the edge, softening, leaping; conversations with people and shame and body image issues. De-conditioning my ideas about most things - particularly what it means to be human. It means dying, weeping, confusion, confession, endings, beginnings, moving long distances, breakups, sleep deprivation, humbling confrontations with my own bullshit. It means jumping into a river and kicking up my feet and trying not to clutch at roots dangling from the shore when the scenery changes.

I live in a temperate rainforest now. The songs are softer. These mountains themselves feel feminine - entangled pulsing green shapeshifting mounds of fertility, seasonal rhythmic flowerings and dyings, food and medicine and poison sprouting in synchrony and blue ghost fireflies mapping the undergrowth through steamy summer nights. These mountains teach me about boundaries - poison ivy as a guardian, holly as the edge dweller, rhododendron as one who knows about taking up space. And then all the boundaries that get crossed, that maybe never existed; vines crawling along the arms of trees, mosses sprawling like spilled paint and mushrooms ecstatically feasting upon death. Herbs of every season, rising and falling, the forest reshaping itself with the full moon, owls and coyotes and bears still roaming these wilds overrun with people; the southeast coast of the United States, a place I never thought I’d be.

Montana, where I was born and lived the first 30 years of my life, could be described as a “masculine” place. It taught me a good many things about certain ways to be a man, most of which involved not feeling, all of which implied staying in control. It was there that I learned to not have needs, to work hard 12 hour days with a shovel for $10 an hour, reshaping the landscape into cheap residential housing units and buying my boss a boat. It was there I learned that it was okay to let my eyes roam and objectify women walking past the construction site, and it was there I learned to not hold hands with another boy, to not move my body in certain ways, to keep the tears held inside.

It was there too that I fell in love with mountains, with the true wild and the penetrating silence of in-tact ecology, the somatic primordial fear of a grizzly encounter, the stories etched into half-broken arrowheads I found along river banks. I learned from my dad that men can be poets in their spare time and from my grandpa that creativity is a blessing. Eventually I learned from other men that we can sit together in a circle and feel fully and be strong at the same time, that we can challenge and wrestle and curse and also let down our guards. The land that is “Montana” has so much to say about resilience, about endurance, about fortitude. It sings a lonely song, and jagged peaks towering above the pine forests point toward the wide star-splashed infinity that our lives play out within.

What I think I’m realizing is that I’m all of it - soft mounded Appalachian flow and jagged fierce Rocky solitude. I contain a woman in my manhood, I can finally say it. She likes to dance, and sometimes I will do so right before I go practice martial arts and shoot pool with my friends. Somehow I know that my fascination with fighting doesn’t negate the way I sometimes want to be little spoon. Life without the feminine and the way she lives in me now - the constant reshaping and the tenderness and the way I get to feel the world, the possibility of being soft and strong and undefined, is unthinkable.

Rocks sing. Even though I’ve abandoned objectivity, I’d bet on it. Half dead trees will transport willing travelers to the underworld, one-legged grasshoppers will look you in the eye and lend you some of their trust. If you really engage the conversation, rotting stumps will allay your worries about what’s on the other side of life and the soft dark soil will remind you that you’ve never left home. It’s all true, none of it is the truth. The only requirement for this kind of conversation is a willingness to be remade, repeatedly.

The deeper I walk into the world, the more that seems to be at stake in finding a shape and sticking to it. In my image of myself, in the “career path” I’m on, the requirements of crafting a professional disposition, cultivating a matching wardrobe, writing with “my” voice, in adhering to the pop culture insistence on defining and defending my identity as the most important task, I hear the voice of the over-culture shouting down all that can’t be controlled. In the voice that says “be yourself,” the one I’ve worked to heed in the noun I’ve strained to establish, I now wonder which self, which part in which contexts. What does it mean to that self if another rock sings or a sunset watched too closely melts an iceberg in my chest and undoes all those years of hard work, to quote Ram Dass, “becoming a somebody.” When I follow the flow, I am undoubtedly more myself. But from the outside, it appears the opposite.

What’s true is the wildness of the world. Wild, the etymology of which leads to "in the natural state, uncultivated, untamed, undomesticated, uncontrolled.” The song of stones will fuck up the central self in the wildest ways and require unachievable acts, turning life into an inescapable myth we can’t evade. When we open our ears to the song, everything becomes an echo. That little part of the conversation you overhear from the guy walking past on his cell phone, the book you happen to pick up in the bookstore, the person you are helplessly magnetized to be in a relationship with. The way you know that they aren’t accidents, even when it doesn’t make any “sense.” Science, progress, materialism, capitalism, they all claim, with ear-splitting volume, The Truth. The wild quietly and simply offers what’s true. No nouns, no center, no promises. Just this eternal song and the choice of whether or not to sing along.


An opportunity to sing along together on Monday 1 April with other humans around Earth creating a wave of song with Earthsongwave Dawn Chorus


Kristopher Drummond is a poet, wilderness guide, and expressive arts therapist-in training living in western North Carolina. His work and life are dedicated to personal and collective homecoming.

Kristopher Drummond, Isle of Iona, Inner Hebrides, Alba/Scotland

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