Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Thanksgiving Rock 

My fascination with rocks began when I was in elementary school.  My friend and I would walk the mile home from school searching the roadsides and empty fields for pretty rocks.  We filled our pockets and small paper bags with these treasures and plotted where we would hide them for later recovery.  Unfortunately, we buried some of them in fields that were scheduled for new home excavation.  We lost many precious treasures that way!  My interest didn’t wane as I grew older.  During our family camping trips I spent hours combing rocky beaches on Lake Superior looking for agates.  In Rocky Mountain State Park and in camp grounds along the way I found interesting specimens to take home.  When my parents moved out of their home into an apartment I found some beautiful rocks my dad had stashed in the garden near the raspberry bushes. ( I guess I come by this rock collecting thing naturally.)  I adopted them for my garden.  
This summer my husband and I traveled to Ireland with some of our family.  Once again I was captivated by rocks I  found along the trails we hiked.  I took pictures of some of them.  When I snuck a couple in my suitcase to bring home I was the laughing stock of the family for a day or two.  I get it.  There are classier things to bring home as souvenirs.  All this got me wondering why rocks are special, not just to me, but to many people.  Admit it.  You have collected a rock from a significant place sometime in your life.  My interest was justified when Wayne Roosa, Professor of Art History from Bethel University, explained that rocks have been used for centuries to mark significant places.  For example, in the Old Testament, they marked places where they felt God, creator of the vast universe, made a connection with man, as small and insignificant as he was.  Some of these were single stones set on end.  Others were more elaborate alters made for worship.  The rocks I brought home from Ireland were from our hike up Croagh Patrick, a 2,500 foot mountain. In the fifth century, St. Patrick, it is said, fasted at the mountain summit for the 40 days of Lent.  It is now a sacred pilgrimage for thousands of people each year.  I am not thinking my rocks are sacred but they do remind me of this very beautiful and  sacred place that I was fortunate enough to visit.
The onset of the Thanksgiving season made me wonder if our country has any stone monument that can be considered a significant place, where the veil between God and man became thin. I recalled an East Coast vacation with a visit to Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts.  My mother-in-law, also a teacher, and I insisted on making this stop there, in spite of pouring rain.  We found the rock housed on the beach under a gazebo type structure.  To our amazement, it was a medium size, very ordinary looking rock, nothing like I imagined as a child hearing the  story of the Pilgrims’ journey, stepping off the Mayflower onto Plymouth Rock.  Perhaps, however, this ordinary stone has become infamous because it marks the place where persecuted Christians found a new world where they could worship as they pleased.  God met them there, they felt his presence and marked the spot with a stone.  Their hearts were filled with thanksgiving for God’s immense blessings.  Their three day celebration the following year became our example for pausing each fall to give thanks for food, family, friends and faith.  Our Thanksgiving traditions become our virtual pilgrimage to this rock monument recalling God’s presence in our lives and the blessing it is to worship as we please.  

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!