Lamenting Stones

Lamenting Stones

My father followed weather forecasts religiously. The launch of The Weather Channel on cable tv in the early 1980s was a welcome addition to his routine; he kept his own rain gauge and a handwritten log of daily rainfall; and once Graham and I moved to Maryland, Dad would check in with us whenever storms were forecast for the mid-Atlantic region. I think of him whenever there are interesting weather events.

And while I am not as obsessed with weather-y news as he was, I do pay attention, and I read the Capital Weather Gang’s daily forecast each morning. This past Sunday, their headline was, “Sunday soaker with a late-day flood risk; snowflakes late tonight?” I forwarded the whole email to our teenage driver, urging care on the afternoon’s rainy return trip home from a weekend in southern Virginia.

I’m sure I saw the second part of the headline, as well, but it didn’t register as at all important or relevant to me — I’d be sleeping and would miss any flurries overnight, after all. So, I was genuinely surprised to wake Monday morning to a snow-covered landscape out the windows! How strange that I hadn’t realized it was a predicted possibility. (Dad wouldn’t have been surprised by it.)

In UUCC’s Lament and Hope worship service on Sunday, congregants voiced laments and dropped stones (to represent those laments) in our communal water bowl. Introducing the ritual, I said,

You are invited to watch as the pile of stones grows in that water—as one grief becomes less distinct from the others, as we are reminded that there is not only an individual’s single grief, but that this grief is ours to hold, together.

The stones on our altar table today were gathered from the ground outside this building. For this ritual, borrowed from the work of Francis Weller, after worship we will be pouring out the water onto a plant, “taking our grief and turning it into nourishment for the green world.” And then the stones will be taken to a local stream or river, where “the movements of the water can scour the stones clean once again.”

Once I saw the snow on Monday, I was eager to get outside while it was still white and fresh-looking. Soon after sunrise I bundled myself and the dog — and your stones of lament — and we began our walk through the neighborhood. The “Sunday soaker” had filled the streams that run through Hickory Ridge and eventually connect with the Little Patuxent River. What a sacred privilege to use my own hands to toss your stones of lament into the rushing streams.

My father died in 2017, but he was with me Monday morning, as were you. I carried our laments — for the atrocities of violence and war, for the legislative assaults on bodily autonomy, for the losses of community and dreams and envisioned futures, for the tragic and unspeakable deaths of our loved ones — and invited Earth and her waters to help us carry them.

The grief is ours to hold, together. In these tender times, may we be gentle with ourselves and with each other.

With love and lament,
Paige

4 Comments

  1. Marti MacKenzie

    Thanks for the beautiful send-off and story of our stones. And I do relate to your father. I, too, went wild when the Weather Channel premiered! He would have been proud.

  2. Laurie S Coltri

    The service was touching and beautiful, a true community moment to be together in lament. And the surprise snow was a little holiday miracle – I laughed and woke up spouse and furry companions.

  3. Brendan C

    I haven’t been attending services in quite some time
    But still stay connected to UUCC through emails and these posts – I lost my Dad to cancer in 2014 and winter weather always reminds me of my joyous but cold years growing up with him in Fairbanks, AK. I also like in Hickory Ridge (albeit in Sebring across Martin Rd) and marvel at how even a ½ inch of snow can transport me back to my childhood – ditto to the person who woke their spouse and pets lol!! This has been a year of lament for our family landing me in a psychiatric outpatient program last month. I very much second the thoughts of this post – lament and woe are necessary experiences but preferably not experienced while alone.

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