In the womb of the earth, the sky is unknown. In the womb of the earth there is only fire and weight. There, in the heat and pressure, I coalesced, crystallized, hardened and came to a discrete, joyful awareness in the fraternity of rocks. Vibrating, grinding, and cascading in concert, we rose gradually, ever thrust away from the hot womb, ever pulled up by the lightening of the vast load above us, but ever so slowly, so that our concerted joy seemed endless to us.
There was a deep, all pervading resonance emanating first and foremost from the fires of our births and secondly from our actions against and with each other as we rose. The song was as vast as the world, for it filled the world. It was slow, but punctuated by sharp cracks and jolts and occasional crescendos, and these, though events, did not make me cognizant of time. There was only being then, a condition so static that I had no thought that it had begun, only that it was. My first notion of time came with the awareness of a complete change in state. I was no longer in direct contact with the fires of my birth. I cooled and rose with the song, joining in the chorus, receiving and passing on the themes.
I learned from the first that my brothers and I were but one section in the song. There were many other sections, but it was one song, never ceasing. Our joy came from the song and from our continual, almost imperceptible rising. There was no thought in us to the goal, to where we were rising, only gladness in the activity itself. We were of a moment, and we rejoiced in it. Because I did not mark time, though I had a notion of what it was, I do not know how long we rose away from the fires of our birth, but I do think that it was a very long time. I do know that the next significant change in my notion of time and place came when I realized that there was a part of the song that did not originate with the fires below or from my brothers and myself. It came instead from above. There were actions, notes in the song, against the rocks above but of a different kind. They were quieter, usually muffled in the louder song so that I had never noted them before, though they had always been there.
I conceived then of the future, for I wondered about a time and place beyond my own for the first time. I did not yet conceive of creatures that were not like us. Because I had only then begun to mark time, it is difficult to tell how long it took for me to rise to the top. I think I was in the state of anticipation longer than I had been in any other state, but I could be mistaken. During that time, I rose, fracturing more and more, splitting into other selves. The song was sharper nearer the top, and there was more activity involved in it, more movement. Myself and my other selves, my new brothers, and my old brothers discovered new alignments in relation to one another.
The heat was almost entirely gone by this time, so far below us were the fires of our births, and the weight was less than it had ever been. We were light and free, almost swimming amongst each other. Our movements were swift and easy, for the constraints were almost gone. There was, for the first time, confusion too.
The top, I could now tell, was different from anywhere below, and I began to realize that the source of the new notes was not among us at all. There was something or someone, else. They spoke to us in the song, but they never seemed to answer our song. My brothers and I began to understand the idea of discord. The notes from the top had nothing to do with our song. They were an intrusion upon it. Having come from joy through curiosity to confusion, I felt fear.
The song from the top was made with tones I did not understand, and I tried not to listen, instead focusing upon the deep reverberations coming to me ever from below in the fires of my birth. But even so, curiosity and fear, or maybe the simple fact of their presence, made me listen to the notes relayed to me by my brothers above.
They were not solid like us, nor were they liquid, like the fires below. Some of my brothers above me sang of freedom of thrusting themselves out into that otherness and being solid against it. Others sang laments at the lack of solidity around them and, most fearsome to me, of the gradual loss of self. They had fractured even more than me, and swum to the top, and found themselves fracturing bit by bit away and away into that otherness.
It was with great fear that I finally was thrust out at last into the other in a cracking and rumbling moment. I sang my last notes in complete solidity and my first into the vast emptiness of the sky. My brother above me broke and fell away from me, leaving me open to the otherness. I was at the top and was almost gone from the song.
It was this realization that was most frightening to me. Until then, I had not realized that the rocks above had almost no part in the song. I was now only echoing back down the song from below. But, there was another song here under the sky. It had only partly to do with rocks, and I did not understand my part in it.
I came to know that the movement of rocks is slow. There are things on the top, under that sky, that are only partly solid. They take form quickly, change much, and break apart almost as soon as they are formed. My concept of time began to be altered. Comparing the reverberations of the song from below with the high, frenzied strains that I endeavored to hear, I realized how quickly things changed at the top. In the time that it took a rock to make any movement at all, the creatures at the top took shape and lost shape around me. Their song was so quick that, at first, I was incognizant of most of it.
For one thing, it is not deep, but high and light. It does not reverberate but sounds and ends. Also, the creatures swim through the sky or move atop the rocks by means that are impossible for rocks. What force impels them is still a mystery to me. I do see that they move themselves. Having always been moved, I did not understand this at first. How they do it is still beyond me.
Their song is so multifaceted that I came to realize that one part of it might have nothing to do with another. In point of fact, there was a clamor in the sky of many songs warring with one another. The greatest song is of the sky itself, of the wind and rain, but the creatures make other songs. Indeed, every creature may make its own song. There is no vast unity.
I was smaller then than I ever had been. I had fractured many times over in the rise and had many more brothers than with which I had started. I spent my days, a concept only conceivable at the top, listening to the song from below for comfort and to the song of the sky to satisfy curiosity. In listening, I heard the echoes of my end coming. I knew that the forces from below were still shoving me upwards and that the sky was wearing me away. I saw it in the rocks around me as they turned gradually to pebbles and fell away I knew not where. In time, by listening to the echoes, I came to realize that they were going back down over the top as it sloped away toward the bottom. There was comfort in that. I would, by and by, perhaps, return to the fires below.
There came a time when some of the creatures came mysteriously to us and accelerated the process by which we were being worn away to pebbles by the sky. Far sooner than I had expected, I was fractured many time over by their devices and fell free of the rocks. For the first time, I was not bonded to my brothers by the weight of the world, but resting lightly upon them in many pieces with much space between us. I was almost completely separated from the song, and this pained me greatly, for it was much sooner than expected.
The creatures carried me away further separating me from the song, and worked upon me with still more.
Now, the shape of a rock is a unique and wonderful thing, a record of its movement up through the great song, of its rising from the fires of its birth to the top where it breaks down and gradually returns, I believe, to the fires of its birth. What one man did to me was of great satisfaction to him, but deeply disturbing to me. I was made artificial. Always before, my shape had been a record of the accidents of my existence, and I knew that every new face I put forth was the result of another rock taking on a discrete existence in the natural course of events. What was done to me by one man with a hammer and a chisel had no part in the expected cycle. It was purposeful. I had learned, over time, to respect the sky and the way that it would gradually wear me away to the last pebble. I had begun to imagine the life of a pebble when the last of me fell away from my brothers and rolled away down the top back toward the bottom. I had imagined the sensations of near constant movement over solids, through liquid and sky. Distantly, I had identified in the song of the sky a great body of ever moving liquid, faster and lighter than the liquid fires of my birth, through which I might one day fall again below.
But this new development was most unexpected.
The man with the hammer and chisel explained it to another man saying this:
“A rock is a shapeless hunk with a beauty hiding inside, son. This ungainly boulder of marble is just a lump, but with the right vision, a man with talent can turn it into something useful. Each rock has something hiding in it that a talented man can bring forth. Look at the rock son, and tell me what you see.”
The other man, son, said nothing.
“Come now, is it several stone bowls, a statue, a counter top, a block for someone’s fireplace, what?”
Still, son said nothing.
The man with the hammer and chisel laughed. “Not to worry, I’ll show you what I see.” He approached me with the hammer and chisel ready. I worried.
“I wish we had stairs going up the hill,” said the boy.
“Eh?” asked the man, “is that what you see, a step in a stair?”
“Yes,” said the boy.
So the man began happily chipping away at me, breaking from me pieces that might have otherwise have been with me for a long time.
My new shape is that of a block. I have six, smooth sides, and I was put here to make it easier for the men to move under their mysterious power up and down a hill of dirt, covered with grass and trees. I, along with twenty three of my brothers, am set in the dirt, poking out of the grass rising in a curving line up the hill. It is hard to talk to the others, for the dirt does not carry the reverberations the way that the rock cliff side of my emergence to the sky did. Indeed, only the most awesome and loud parts of the song below reach us here. I feel that we are very much a part of the sky now and are only barely connected to the earth. On the hill, I am a thin, whistling part of the song of the sky, more an instrument of the wind that a voice in any chorus.
I am resigned to it, but I do not know if my brothers are. It is pointless to resent the doings of the men. I was no more under my own power inside the earth than I am now, so perhaps that is simply my purpose. I do not know, and certainly, it is not what I expected. I was taken violently from the earth by artificial means rather than in a joyous cascade as part of the processes that formed me. My shape is no longer a record of my rising and emergence but a record of the doings of the man with the hammer and chisel only. I am the vision of him and the son.
My concept of time is shaped by them now. I know that I may endure far longer than they, but my existence is punctuated by their comings and goings to such an extent that I compare changes in me to changes in them and measure it in days. Since I have been here in the soft embrace of the hill, the son has changed. At first I was of more weight than him, but now I am sure that that he could dig me out and move me if he wanted to. His footstep, formerly a mere tap is now a sure, heavy jolt upon me, and I shift in the dirt under him. From time to time, he remarks that he ought to set me more firmly, but he has not done so.
Things happen to creatures that are incomprehensible to rocks. No matter how we break down, each piece retains discrete existence and the same sense of being. Perhaps this only ends when we rejoin, as I believe we do, in the fires of our birth and are remade. But men, and all creatures, can end in a way that we cannot. If parts of them are chipped off, those parts are not new creatures as parts chipped off rocks are new rocks. Furthermore, this process may end their existence as creatures.
I had noticed this in the grass, that when fractured, the broken part did not remain grass, but I had not observed it in men until one day when the man who hammered and chiseled us into steps came up the hill by himself. He moved more slowly than he had at first, and I noted his steps curiously, wondering what purpose there was to it, trying to attribute to him the familiar characteristics of rocks. Of course, this was to no avail. He does not move because of the great, upward push of the heat below and the lessening load above.
He did make one movement that is familiar to me, the movement that I always expect men to make, but which they make rarely, he fell. I must admit that this pleased me greatly, for from his position, it was the logical, rocklike thing to do. If one is up with hardly any support, one must fall to where there is support. I received him gladly to my smooth surfaces and felt the pleasing cracks from the rocklike parts inside him as they fractured, as I imagined, into brothers. He made also a strange, man sound and then tumbled away a little, coming at last to a reasonable stop, and he lay there like a rock. Inside him, I felt a source of song, a soft, thumping song that I believe is the impetus of all their movement and song. It pleased me greatly to hear it, to understand something more of them, to have him become familiar and safe, but, no sooner had I heard it than the song ceased.
He lay there for some time, most of one day. During that time, I did not hear the song again, though I hoped to hear it. Then the son came. I noted his footsteps, falling swiftly closer to me. He arrived and saw the other and began making man sounds and seemed to be under stress. I began to understand that what happened to the broken grass had happened to the man. The sadness I had felt enduring some of my changes was felt by the son but more strongly. He moved about pounding the earth, making noises and moving things around. When he saw me, and saw where the other had fallen and struck me, he lifted me out of the ground and hurled me through the air. It was a strange moment for me. I was completely separated from the song below. It was frightening, but it lasted only a moment, then I struck the ground and broke again, in two. The son went and lifted the other up and carried him away, and I was in a new place and with a new brother.
The sun in the sky warmed us both, and we sang as we expanded. Night came and cooled us both, and we sang as we contracted. We rested where we had fallen for several days. Then, the son came and found us. He carried us both up the hill to the place were I had been before. He set us there together in that spot, touching. For several days we expanded with the heat of the sun, singing to each other. For several nights, we contracted in the coolness, singing to each other.
Then, the son came again, picked us up and returned us to the place where the father had carved us, and worked on us in a new way. Putting pebbles and dust and liquid on us, between us, he shoved us back together, held us together with weights, and gradually, over a day or two, we became one, just me, but a new me, a me with a memory of two distinct existences that had been for several days and nights..
And the son said to me, “You killed him, so you will be hold the record of his life,” and he took the hammer and the chisel and carved and gouged out of me many little bits leaving a pattern I do not yet understand. He called me by a new name. He placed me among many others all placed in a similar manner. Here I rest, wondering what I mean, fulfilling ignorantly the purpose to which I have been set. The men come and speak what is carved upon me, and this is what they say “Charley Davidson, 1871 – 1941, Husband, Father, Craftsmen.” I don’t quite know what it means, but it is the song they sing to me now, the men, and it is unique to me. In that, I take my purpose, my mysterious purpose. I listen to the songs around me, the songs of the sky above, the earth below, and the self-motivated creatures on the surface and in the sky. I sing my own song, expanding and contracting the in the heat and the cold, but the song placed on me by the men and sung to me by them, I hear without understanding.