Early one morning at our rented cabin in a remote corner of the Black Hills, I finally brought out the small stones, brushes, and paints that I’d been promising my oldest nephew. We sat down at a picnic table on the piney slope in the cool breeze, where underfoot many lovely little shooting star wildflowers popped out of the thick layers of pine needles. We followed directions that we found elsewhere online, putting down a white base (to help with color vibrancy when the top layers were added), letting it dry, and then completing the image. He made a house, a star, and other symbols that must appeal to seven-year-olds. The younger three also had their turns, happily painting away in the dappled shade. The idea is to create pictures on stones that one can then use to make up stories, arranging the stones in a different order each time and challenging the parent and child to tell a new tale with each iteration. At home, we have used purchased story cards, and my three-year-old adores setting them out before me and waiting to see what story I can come up with.
It seems like just a children’s craft, but it’s so much more than that, as I realized this morning thinking about the various ‘story stones’ that have been added to our life this summer, mainly that of Mom’s passing. Just think of all of the story stones we could paint of our life’s journey: pieces of our identity, challenging events, happy events, accomplishments made. Just as a child can re-arrange a set of story stones to make up a different narrative, I suppose that we can do the same, finding new, creative ways to view the collection of memories and choices that weigh us down at times with their emotional significance. In our mind’s eye, we can set out our story stones and adjust their placement, giving them a new meaning and role just as we might as we make up a different story for our children every time we bring out the story stones they’ve painted.We can add new stones as we grow older, stones that can completely change the meaning of the story, stones that change something that seemed final into something that was just a passing challenge, stones that can turn what looks like a sad story into a happy story.