Along the rocky shores of Lake Champlain, the beaches are covered with iconic gray and white stones — gray Ibervilleshale transected by veins of white calcite. Their origin story offers a potent allegory for the journey back and forth between fragmentation and wholeness.
500 million years ago, when the area that is now Vermont was covered by a shallow tropical sea, silt gradually accumulated on the seabed floor, eventually hardening into shale. Meanwhile, sea creatures used the calcium carbonate floating in the water as a construction material to build their bodies and homes (e.g. corals, shells).
Every so often, a seismic event would occur, causing the seabed of shale to split open and water to travel into the fissures and cracks, carrying dissolved calcium carbonate from the former bodies and structures of creatures. This process continued for millions of years — the calcium shifting from the water, to the creatures, back to the water, and eventually into the splits of the shale.
Ancient veins of calcite in a nearby cliff
Stone fragments softened by water and time
100 million years later, when the tropical sea had receded, what remained was a base of hardened gray shale, criss-crossed with long white veins of calcite, tracing out the routes where the water (and the former bodies and structures of creatures) had traveled into the cracks.
Eventually, that hardened shale broke off into smaller stone “fragments,” which were softened over time by water and wind. Each of these fragments is totally unique, with its own special patterning of white calcite veins running through the gray background of the underlying stone.
An especially exquisite linestone
Today, we encounter these enigmatic “linestones” as evidence of ancient times — each stone a kind of puzzle piece or pointer, hinting at some long-forgotten wholeness, when the fragmented segments used to connect.
This ritual presents an early attempt to access this elusive sense of wholeness — through the childlike gesture of collecting a number of and arranging them side by side on the High Acres Farmbeach, so that the white veins of each stone connect with those of its neighbors.
Ancient bodies touching; Connecting through time
As the final gesture of the ritual, I lay down on the beach beside the long line of stones, using my own hand to continue the line — implicating my physical body in this lineage of geologic connection, linking the human story with that of the land.