Many viewing stones are completely natural, although some have been cut with the cut side seated in a custom-carved wooden display stand. Even tiny ones can have outsized sculptural qualities. Viewing stones may be highly evocative of landscape features such as mountains, waterfalls, or pools. They can resemble animals or abstract sculptures. Some are prized for the pictures they display. A tiny figure may be added to complement the mood of a stone and larger ones are displayed outside in gardens. Displaying small ones together on a stand provides an opportunity to compare their diverse colors, shapes and textures.
Blueberries are tough plants. They like the acidic gravelly soil with lots of sun exposure that is found on tops of mountains in New England and other places where they grow wild. They thrive when they are burned or eaten back by animals as this stimulates new growth underground. Knowing they are good for you does not take anything away from their wonderful color and sweet acid taste after a hike up a mountain.
As my siblings and I hiked up Pine Mountain’s easy ascent with our parents and their friends, those friends would tell Scaramapoodles stories. Scaramapoodles looked for children who were chewing gum. They would keep the gum and spit out the kids. We loved it. Those stories were clearly meant just for us kids.
July when blueberries are ripe is a perfect time to be camping in the mountains of Hew Hampshire as my family used to do most summers. Even when I did not feel like climbing a mountain, I was willing to climb Pine Mountain. It had blueberries and spectacular views of the Belknap Mountains from the top. I had also noticed garnet crystals glowing magenta from some of the granite ledges.
Anita has different memories of blueberries. In New England where she now lives, she has happy memories of buying them at farm stands. But in Central America, where she is from, they did not know about the fruit.
When I asked what she might like to contribute for a gathering to share tea and dialogue in my tea hut, Anita suggested blueberries. She has special memories of her grandfather who loved pies made from the fruit that was sent all the way from North America to Honduras. Here she tells that story in her own words. This video was made by Jeff Klein. You may visit his website here.
Like jade, tourmaline comes in many colors. Individual crystals can grow quite large at times – a two-inch green example is shown below. They are also found in handsome clusters and penetrating quartz. When many narrow crystals (or hollow ones) are aligned, a cat’s eye effect may be achieved with a bright band that intensifies, fades and moves with the light. Gems are cut in a rainbow of single colors and multi-colored slabs are also used in rings and pendants. “Watermelon” tourmaline is famous. Blue is relatively rare with the intense blue-green Paraiba highly prized.
There is a theory that all humans prefer a particular type of open landscape with a vista of trees and water. These days, we are bombarded with devastating images of too little or too much water, but I hope we do not settle for mere survival as we work to compensate for this widespread and highly destructive disruption.
Landscapes with water can do more than that and it may not take as much water as you think.
It is true that I love taking photos of large bodies of water in nature and the sea has meaning for me as a metaphor:
But surprisingly, the small amount of water in my granite water basin has proven to be enough for me to feel a deep connection to nature’s flow. It captures light. Breezes move its surface as do rain drops. Creatures drink from it. On a hot day, a raccoon jumped right in. Leaves it reflects change shape and color, then fall in. After I clear them out, ice mounds up until it melts in spring. Then the caressing moss emerges once again.
My brother, who gave me this facetted rabbit asked me to take a photo of it creating rainbows. Though tiny, you can see them there on the bottle behind it.
I was surprised by the interest in this photo. Perhaps I should not have been. Rainbows capture our attention. Whether arching out in nature or resulting from light dispersing through objects, we are delighted by their ephemeral beauty.
Our ability to perceive rainbows can also be thought provoking. Color vision is a mysterious part of our highly sensitive but limited apparatus to sense what is out there. Other animals’ vision can be quite different.
At a fundamental level the colors we can see are a function of how our human eyes and brains work. In most humans, three types of cone cells are triggered by different wave lengths of light and the results are combined by our brains so we can distinguish at least a million colors.
Color blindness results from having two normal and one mutant cone cell. The daughters of color-blind men may be born with a fourth type of cone cell and in theory, these tetrachromat daughters can perceive many millions of additional colors. However, it may take practice for them to activate this ability, and the natural world may not provide many opportunities for such practice.
The study of color vision involves many disciplines and the elusive nature of personal subjective experience adds to the challenge. Associations matter, and color preferences can differ by culture. That, however, takes nothing away from the wonder we feel when seeing a spectrum array of colors, however we perceive them, laid before us in a rainbow.
Bringing in peace as you prepare for a gathering will affect you in ways that cannot help but benefit your guests – Pause, Relax, and Open, Attune to Emergence and Listen Deeply. Then Speak the Truth in creating an arrangement that conveys warmth and welcome. These Insight Dialogue guidelines work in so many applications including when creating a setting for guests.
Perhaps you will include a reminder of nature displayed in a place of honor with space around it. It is a chance to be creative and playful, using a light touch to see what happens, a heart connection without words, a small surprise, a way of acknowledging that life can be lived more like a work of art.
You can bring to it all the sensitivity and freshness used to create a tokonoma alcove arrangement for a tea ceremony. This one includes a collage by my tea ceremony teacher, Giselle Maya:
You may also wish to keep in mind the Japanese tea ceremony values of harmony, purity, respect and tranquility. While it is important to ensure that what touches food or drink is scrupulously clean and that edibles are pure and safe, purity also dictates that anything not needed be eliminated. Care taken with objects and supplies implies respect for your guests.
Ideally, the result will be supportive of a sense of peace and wellbeing as well as openness. It takes a bit of effort, but this approach to preparing for guests is an important mindfulness practice in its own right.
I had the shadow box for some time before I discovered what I wanted to do with it. It was a multi-step process: 1) Pick a stone, 2) Find or take a photo with something to say about it, 3) Arrange them together in the box, and 4) Take a photo of that. I did not know what would happen. The ones I struggled with the most could come together in perfect balance in the end. I kept thinking of new possibilities until it was time to stop. But this could be endless. Stones just have resonance.
Morrisonite jasper slab with closeup taken from the top right.
Lobster claw Scholar’s Rock with a lobster roll.
Bubble lace agate with closeup.
Hut Stone Scholar’s Rock with Japanese garden photo.
Jasper pebble & the Whidbey Island beach where I found it.