July Stones

video link

This morning I welcome Fiona Robyn to Via Negativa — that’s her voice in the video. Fiona’s on a blog tour to promote her book small stones: a year of moments. I’m a long-time reader of the blog from which the selections were drawn — in fact, a small stone was a major inspiration for my own daily microblogging experiment, The Morning Porch.

Fiona’s “stones” aren’t poems, exactly — some are, but others clearly are not. Each one represents a moment of quiet, focused attention, part of a daily practice which Fiona began three years ago to try and revitalize her own interest in writing. Blogging was integral to the project, it seems: from the beginning she wanted a space where she could collect and share the literary equivalent of small stones picked up on a walk and carried home in a pocket. “They might be a snatch of overheard conversation, the sun moving behind the cloud, or a cat jumping on the lawn,” Fiona writes in the introduction.

They set off a quiet ‘ah!’ inside me, like a toddler saying ‘look!’ They are nothing special and something special all at once. As time went on, I got better at remembering to notice the world around me. Not just to notice it but to scrutinize it, engage with it, love it.

When Fiona said she was publishing a book of selections from the first three years of the blog, I had my doubts about how well it work. But in fact they make a surprisingly satisfying collection. Like insects trapped in amber, the very delicacy and ephemerality of Fiona’s “stones” invite closer examination. As fragments of concentrated attention, many of them engage the reader in an active search for additional images and ramifications, in the same way that a modern translation of Sappho challenges one to fill in the lacunae.

Accordingly, in the video, I tried to leave as many lacunae as possible and let the words create the pictures. I hope it manages to excite some interest in the project (I uploaded it to YouTube, as well, for maximum exposure). Be sure to follow the links on the blog tour page for many more interviews, reviews, and conversations with the author. Consider writing your own “stones” for submission to a new, communal blog that Fiona is launching called a handful of stones. And of course check out the book.


Five minutes before midnight, a gnat attracted to the reflected light of my computer monitor dives into my eye.

12 Replies to “July Stones”

  1. Enjoyed this post…..this is what my writing journal is like, little vignettes which I hope will end up as the diving boards for poems…..I like the poetry in these very much, mine tend to be more scrappy, I’m going to work harder on them as they can clearly be wonderful in their own right. Thanks for introducing Fiona’s work.

  2. I was doing my daily reading on Changing Places and found your link in her blogroll.

    I have added you to mine (blogroll).

    It’s nice here.

  3. Crazy Old Man Just Rambling —

    Suppose those “small stones” of focused attention
    Were a type of quantum singularity
    Like the Big Bang that created the universe…
    Doorways into the Void.

    In the beginning was the Word…

    Well, not quite.

    That “Instability” from which arose
    The Vibration In The Strings,
    The “Big Bang” which physicists call “Vacuum Genesis” (creatio ex nihilo),
    Is Consciousness

    When the attention is focused, then,
    Words and Events become “Little Bangs” in the Quantum Void —
    Vibrations that open Pathways…

    And suppose that these “zero point” singularities were
    “Attachment Points” for other dimensions and universes.

    Consciousness, Imagination, Vibration…
    Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva…
    Creator, Preserver, Destroyer…
    Singularities emnerge from Consciousness, from thoughts…
    And they are connected by the strands of a web
    That is beyond time and space…

    All of Which raises the question,
    “Can the gnat flying up your nose really open a Stargate?”

    Any sorcerer (or writer, for that matter – the two are much alike) worth his or her Salt must certainly develop a good sense of humor in the face of such hilarious absurdities…

    Camus and Buddha both knew the same thing:
    Under a bodhi tree or the sun of a North African beach,
    It makes no difference,
    Anything can be a doorway…

    When our “Assemblage Point” approaches
    The “Attachment Point” of a quantum singularity,
    A crack always appears in the Cosmic Egg
    That nourishes both Society and Self,
    And physical death is always a possible consequence.

    So, to set out on The Quest
    One must accept this risk.

    Attention, intention, impeccability, dreaming…
    These are tools for acquiring Power.
    And one cannot spend too much time with one’s regrets,
    As it will always be over sooner than you think.

    It is harder to pay attention when one is young.
    Now that I am old I have time every day
    For the geese, the guinea, the goat,
    And the groundhogs that live on my little mountain.

    We have grown accustomed to each other’s habits and needs.
    I give them food and water and protection,
    And they give me attention and company
    Now that no one comes around to visit anymore…

    The poor male guinea lost his mate a few weeks back.
    Most likely a predator got her — a dog or a hawk perhaps.
    Now he is afraid to come out from under
    The old junk car where he spends most of his day.

    He waits for the black goat to arrive
    Before coming out to scratch the ground and eat.
    I guess staying under the goat makes him feel safe.

    I know just how he feels.
    I lost my mate a few years back to a heart attack,
    And I don’t like to go out much anymore either.

    Still, you can’t go around afraid that death
    Is lurking in every shadow.
    It could always grab us at any time,
    And that’s just the way it is…

    Bluejays and chickadees,
    Cardinals and blackbirds,
    A wild turkey and a big red fox,
    Skunks, ‘coons, and possums…
    Some during the day, others at night,
    They all come to my ‘drive up’ window
    Expecting a handout…

    My house is full of parrots.
    Big ones and little ones…
    Macaws, Conures, Greys, Amazons, Cockatiels…
    Every color of the rainbow!
    They are my familiars and I am their servant.

    Some birds, you know, are Angels in Disguise,
    Come to carry our prayers before the Great Spirit…

    My old drum left me,
    So now I need a new one — one with a good voice, I hope.
    But it will have to wait, I guess…

    Oh well… NativeRadio.com will do just fine.
    Besides, I carry a drum in my heart and head!

    Every warrior, even old ones, must be like Sisyphus
    And refuse to give up until the game is over.
    No excuses…

    — P.S.

    A few weeks ago I was standing at my window during a thunderstorm. A small ball of white light (about the size of a softball) suddenly appeared a few feet in front of me in mid-air, about six feet off the ground, and then exploded and disappeared.

    It did not make a loud sound like most lightning strikes, more like just a popping sound, but when I turned around, the screen of my TV looked like someone had run a powerful magnet over it, and all the colors were a mess. The LCD screen on my computer monitor was unaffected. The TV eventually returned to normal after several hours.

    Whatever field of energy was generated, it had to pass right through me, but yet I felt nothing.

    Very strange. I have seen “ball lightning” before, but this was different than anything I have ever seen.

  4. I’m very drawn to the “ah” moment, and so appreciate these offerings very much. I also liked the video of the sandals walking. It conveyed the body and disembodied quite well.

  5. Oops.

    Apologize for the top part of my post getting messed up somehow – don’t know how that happened… it didn’t show when I was editing, and I didn’t catch the mistake in time.

    The lower portion after the repeated title is the correct full post.

  6. Hi Jo – I tend to find that my small stones never become poems – they don’t have enough ‘meat’ on them – but maybe I don’t give them a chance…
    Gerry – I agree, it is nice!
    Bird Dreamer – that certainly wasn’t a small stone ;)
    Robin – I liked the sandals too – and glad you like the ‘ah’ – writing about the book has really helped me to be clearer about the quality of these moments…
    Thanks for having me, Dave – I love the video, you are a champion blogger.

  7. Bird Dreamer – I fixed it.

    I appreciate your interest in Via Negativa, but for comments of such length and tenuous connection to the original post and the rest of the message string, I think perhaps it would be more considerate of other readers if you instead left a link to a post on your own blog. Besides, you seem to have a lot that you want to share with the world in general, so starting a blog would be a logical move. It’s not difficult — you can set up a free blog in minutes at http://blogger.com

  8. Excellent. I subscribed to Small Stones probably about a year ago(?). Wonderful little gems. Congratulations to Fiona on the book – and good luck on the tour. Nice video, Dave.

  9. Fiona, how lovely to hear your voice here. Dave, terrific video — I loved the sandals too — and it’s fascinating to see which “stones” you chose, or Fiona chose, to read here — but best of all is the collaboration. Thanks for picking up these stones and turning them around for us!

  10. I got the book through the other day; wonderful though the net is, it’s nice sometimes to have a thing to handle like that. I’m enjoying it very much, and picking up with her blog tour here and there.

    Loved the sandals too!

  11. leslee – Well, I think you’ve been reading it for over two years. I know this because I was led to a small stone, and Fiona, from a link at 3rd House, and it was a few months after that that I solicited work from her for qarrtsiluni’s “Short Shorts” issue, which ran in July and August of 2006.

    beth – The choice of selections was entirely Fiona’s.

    Lucy – Yeah. The literary blogosphere does nothing to assuage one’s book-hunger, does it? If anything, it merely feeds it. So many blog-books I still want to see…

    Thanks to everyone for the kind comments about the video. I guess as a first effort in stop-motion animation, using the primitive Windows Movie Maker program, it wasn’t too terrible.

  12. Heh. I thought that was the case, but couldn’t remember. It must have been in a post, because I neglected to blogroll “a small stone” (using feeds all the time, I forget to blogroll anymore). So happy I could instigate the connection!

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