Consider this my belated Valentine’s Day gift.
Once upon a time, almost 16 years ago, I started my collection of heart-shaped rocks. I should clarify that this was an unintentional collection, because in a way, it was as if the collection chose me. It’s easy for me to remember when the heart-shaped rocks entered my life, because they coincided with a new-found love who totally swept me off my feet.
At the time, I was convinced that the rocks and this new love were connected in a meant-to-be kind of way. After all, here I’d gone my whole life without ever finding a heart-shaped rock, and then I meet this guy, and suddenly, I’m finding heart-shaped rocks everywhere.
I have a bad habit of reading meaning – mostly positive – into almost anything. Combine that with my being a big fan of metaphors, and I ended up projecting great importance onto my heart-shaped rocks.
Rocks are hard, but hearts are soft, I reasoned. Plus, I’d suffered from a hard heart before (after Divorce No. 1), but then I found this “true” love, which seemed to relay the moral of the story that even the most hardened heart can eventually find love, especially when one least expects it. And don’t forget, hearts must be strong to withstand all the pain that accompanies love.
It was crazy. We’d go on walks on beaches or in the woods or even across a cracked-and-weedy parking lot and I’d find a heart-shaped rock. We bought a piece of land out in God’s country, and oh em gee, that ground was positively erupting with heart-shaped rocks.
Then I went and wrote about my heart-shaped rock
obsession collection, back when I worked at the paper, and faster than you could say avalanche kindly readers were dropping heart-shaped rocks off for me at work. One guy even delivered chunks of heart-shaped asphalt.
Yes, you’re right. Normally it’s considered unethical for journalists to accept gifts (flowers and food seem a quasi-allowable loophole) but somehow, with rocks, they seemed OK to keep. I mean, I don’t know of any journalist who could be bought with rocks — unless we’re talking diamonds. )
I absolutely hate myself when I get off track. But as long as I’m this far afield, let me just do this little side mention of a song that song-writer (and anewscafe.com reader) *Erin Friedman shared with me back when I’d written that heart-shaped rock column. Friedman’s song was a rather dark little number about a woman scorned, a shattered pickup window, a dead guy inside the truck and a heart-shaped rock lying nearby. (I hope I have the story straight.) It’s a clever, chilling song, but I remember back then that it only served as a reminder of how lucky I was to have pure, joyful meanings to my heart-shaped rocks.
Anyway, so I had this heart-shaped rock collection, and it grew so large that my plan was to embed the rocks in a huge outdoor wood-fired pizza oven we’d planned to build in my outdoor kitchen.
I’ll just rip the bloody Band-aid off and get to the gaping wound part where the supposedly “true love” turned out to be totally false. The marriage ended badly. How badly? Well, one therapist friend observed that my marriage was one of the messiest, most complicated break-ups this therapist had ever witnessed, what with the triple-loser effect (opposite of a triple-gainer): I lost a charming husband, and a seductress who’d professed to be my dear friend. The philanderers were also my business partners.
Everybody wants to be renowned for something, but I can’t say I was thrilled to be noted as being one of the best examples of the worst marital break-ups in my therapist friend’s professional memory.
I fled God’s country, found a house down in the Garden Tract and got my heart-shaped rock collection back. The thing is, seeing that pile of heart-shaped rocks just depressed the hell out of me. Besides, they seemed – I don’t know – haunted or tainted, or jinxed.
Even so, I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away. I sure didn’t want to give them away, because my slightly superstituous side wouldn’t want to curse a perfectly fine relationship with my bad juju rocks.
So I hauled my pile of heart-shaped rocks around to my back door until I could think of what to do with them.
The answer came about a month ago when a friend and I went for a walk on the Sacramento River Trail (the Benton Drive/Court Street side). About 1 mile in – maybe more – we spotted something I’d never noticed: a large labyrinth off the path, down a steep little walkway. This labyrinth was made almost entirely of rocks, most of which were probably taken from the nearby stream bed.
A sign on a tree near the trail identified the place at the Peace Labyrinth, and it welcomed people to come walk, meditate, pray and leave a rock.
We walked down the incline, went to the center of the Peace Labyrinth and started walking, first in tight little circles, but eventually the paths widened out. Mostly, the path was lined with regular rocks, but it was also dotted liberally with special rocks with written messages, and decorated with trinkets and feathers and glass beads and tiny toys. There were pieces of paper tucked under some rocks, private messages, no doubt, like the paper under a rock that had the words, “R.I.P. Dad”.
While my friend and I were there we saw two young men who went down to the creek and hauled up some large boulders to include in the labyrinth. One of of the guys mentioned that his dog had died, and this was one way to honor and remember his pet.
I noticed something else along the paths: lots of heart-shaped rocks, and hearts painted onto rocks. Hearts were everywhere. Apparently, I didn’t have the market cornered on the heart-shaped rock concept.
I knew then that I’d found the perfect final resting place for my rock collection. Like the guy whose dog died, my marriage had died, too. So bringing my heart-shaped rocks there would be an ideal way to memorialize my loss.
So that’s what I do now when I go to the river trail: I bring a couple of heart-shaped rocks to leave behind each time.
I realize that this may take a while, because my heart-shaped collection was so large.
But that’s fitting. My love was large, too.
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.