Why am I thinking about rocks? A few weeks ago, I lugged home a big rock. My husband thought it ridiculous, but he indulged me. I placed it in the garden where I can see it from the kitchen window. I won’t forget this rock. It’s bold and beautiful. I found it on the edge of a wooded area where we stopped our car for a bite of lunch. It was there among some ferns and bracken. It reminded me of a painting I purchased years ago. The painting was in an art show. It was titled “Stream with Rocks.” That’s all it was: a painting of a stream edged with rocks and water flowing over boulders. I had to have it.
Biblically speaking, rocks figure. Was not Peter given the Greek name of “petros,” meaning “stone” or “rock?” Did not Jacob build a monument of rocks after he wrestled with God’s angel? Do not Jewish cemeteries have stones on the graves of loved ones, a la “Schindler’s List?” Rocks and stones are significant symbols in dreams and psychology. In dreams they are said to represent the “inner self.” Perhaps so. Certainly they represent something internal and eternal—stability, permanence. A rock says, “I belong to the earth; I am part of the universe, the essence of matter.” Consider Japanese rock gardens—those exquisitely stylized miniature landscapes composed of gravel, pebbles, and sand raked to represent ripples in water. Beautifully tended.
In writing, grammar and punctuation metaphorically could be compared as the rocks of the written word. An exquisite piece of writing—an essay, letter, short story, or a well-constructed sentence--leans upon the foundations of grammar. Even so, there are variations. Sometimes we deliberately write in fragments in order to capture tone or rhythm. We make changes in structure and punctuation to accommodate dialogue and voice. Not every sentence has to follow the “subject, predicate, and direct object” pattern. Even so, the good writer has to know the rules.
What about Picasso or de Kooning? People see their paintings and say, “I could do that!” But wait, they both knew the rules of classical art and painting. Anyone can slap words on a sheet of paper, but those words wouldn’t qualify as art. I loved it one time when someone complimented me by saying, “I’d love to read your grocery list.” Which reminds me—I must go to the grocery store. From my window I see the “big rock.” It deserves to be the center of a beautifully tended Zen garden, but here it is among a bunch of orange and yellow marigolds. I will keep it here.