THE WOMAN WHO TALKED TO STONES
by Catherine Ann Jones
Her name was Jennie. She towered tall as some lone pine and stout, resembling more a 19th century pioneer woman. Jennie had thick strawberry blonde hair flecked with fire that cascaded down her shoulders, highlighting her face with a quiet halo bespeaking unknown, even mysterious origins. She had piercing blue-green eyes resembling the sea near Capri, which of course she had never seen. Her eyes saw right through, for, like Cassandra, Jennie was a seer. From an early age, she had the gift-or the curse-of knowing what others are thinking. She lived up north in the Canadian wilds, somewhere near Uranium city. Her parents were trappers, disappeared when she was twelve during one particularly harsh winter. Since then, she has fended for herself. With her face smooth and ageless, she could be anywhere between thirty and fifty. She lived alone with a dog who was part wolf. She names the dog, Wolf, honoring his lineage. Wolf responded to Jennie, who possessed the odd mixture of strength and gentleness sometimes found in such women. They lived in harmony; woman and wolf, far removed from what others call civilization.
Jennie had been a sniper up north in the hills. That’s what they call miners who have no claim-they just go hither and thither ‘sniping’ the gold in the hills. “Just have to keep a look-out or you’ll likely get shot,” she’d say, with a crooked grin resembling more a ten-year old. She worked timber too, cutting the fallen trees, and could hold her own with any man. Generally, the men respected her. That is, until the foreigners came. Sikhs from India migrated to Canada and, being soldiers, were well suited to the strenuous life in the Rockies. They were a rough bunch, however, and short of women. After two days of threatening glances, divining the men’s lewd thoughts, Jennie tracked down a pay phone and called her friend Troy, telling him to bring Wolf. Troy drove the three hundred miles to deliver Wolf. The next morning, Jennie joined the men, with Wolf protectively at her side. The biggest of the Sikhs again threatened her, this time by grabbing her breast, while the others clustered, ready to join in the fun. As if on cue, Wolf wandered over to the man who was well over six foot, sniffing. Then Wolf raised a leg and pissed right on the big Sikh’s leg, marking his territory. He then returned nonchalantly and stood guard near Jennie, all the while keeping a fixed gaze on the big fellow. The message was a clear one, and those Sikhs never bothered her anymore after that.
When Jennie had saved enough from timberwork, she bought two thoroughbreds. Before long, she had a small herd of them, which she trained well then sold. Jennie had a way with horses, indeed with all animals, but horses were her favorites. “I could spend the better part of a day just lookin’ at them, eh? They could appreciate every little thing; you do for ‘em, a kind word, a pat, or even a whistle. Yes, I guess, them thoroughbreds are the finest things God ever made.”
Soon she became known as a gifted trainer, and folks came from all around to have her train theirs. From then on, the stories multiplied. People, bored with the monotony of their own lives, would often ferret out someone special to focus on. And it didn’t take an Einstein to see at once that Jennie was special, not that she ever took notice of it herself. Life seemed to claim her complete attention. Still, the stories multiplied and people being people, well, they liked to pass them on. One of the stories went something like this.
Once she was hiking high in the Rockies and came across twin bear cubs. She went close to admire the babes. Soon she sensed something coming up behind her, and glanced back over her shoulder. There stood the largest female grizzly she had ever seen. Now one thing everyone knows is that, come what may, you never, ever get between a grizzly and her cubs. Certain death. Not many men would have had her courage or pluck. Run? Fight? Not Jennie. She just stood admiring those cubs for a spot of time then slowly turned around to face the mother. “Your babies are the most beautiful ones I’ve ever seen. You must be so proud of ‘em.” That grizzly just stood and took it in, then ambled on, as polite as you please. What mother doesn’t like to hear her young ones praised?
There were some who thought Jennie odd or even mad. One of the hunters who came into the trading post told the owner there, “Do you know, that woman is crazy. She talks to stones.” Jake, who ran the post, just nodded, for he knew that wasn’t what mattered. What mattered was that any time he or anyone else was ailing, they would seek out Jennie and her cures. She had herbs hanging all over her place that could cure horse or man. A few centuries ago, they would have burned her just like those women in Salem. Now folks just call such women mad or even eccentric and let them be. Guess we’ve come that far anyway. But it was true about her talking to stones.
“It’s best if you place them on your forehead, and just listen. Then they’ll speak to you and tell you their stories.” And that’s just what she would do-that is, after talking to it for a spell. “You’re a pretty one, aint ya?” Then she would sit absolutely still, holding the rock to her forehead, sensing an open portal through which the rock would reveal its story. And it would do just that. The story was long and far away. First, she would hear the geological evolution of the stone going back millions of years. “A long time ago there was a volcano here, then a flood, and this rock saw it all.”
Jennie might tell you everything about a stone, but she took a long, long time before revealing much of herself. Mainly she just sat and listened and looked right through you. I thought she might suddenly place my hand or head on her forehead to hear my story. I’m certain that only a certain shyness prevented her doing so. After some time, however, she told me more of her story and how she had met her shaman guide three years before. “Something was missing and I woke up one morning and knew I had to go looking for it. I carried this thought around for a few days then had a dream which told me what to do. I had to go to Peru.” Peru? When she had never left Canada! “That’s where I found him, my teacher, Jose. It took me two weeks of listening and feeling where to go, but I kept on and found him sitting under a tree smoking a clay pipe. “He just looked up as if he had expected me all along.” Jennie said, with smiling eyes. “Jose is in his eighties now so don’t know if I’ll get to see him again.” She gave him a stone and he kept it on his mesa for a time. Three months later, the stone told Jose. “Now, I must go and live with her.” So he gave it back. She understood that it was Jose’s way of telling her it was time to go back home. She left the next day but has kept that stone with her ever since. When she places it on her forehead, she can listen and hear and hear the stone speak of Jose, of his lineage centuries before his ancestors. The stone tells of when starships carried some two million people from an exploding planet to safety on Earth—to Peru, long, long ago. She heard it all and never doubted what he said because he was her teacher and she trusted him.
Jose told her it was all true, yet warned however not to speak of these things else people would think her mad. “Remember, my girl, never speak the truth – unless there are ears to hear. People aren’t ready to know – not for a long while.” Jennie would just laugh and toss her red hair and say. “Jose, they already think I’m crazy, so it don’t really matter, eh?” She felt the same harmony with Jose that she had experienced with Wolf. As if they were recorded from the heart. Their eyes did most of the talking and silence was the only language necessary. For long periods, she and Jose would sit together, silent as stones, watching a fire, occasionally looking up at a falling star.
Recently, Jennie attended a gathering of shamans who had also studied with Jose in Peru. They met in southern California at a lake retreat and spent a week together. Jennie stayed mostly to herself, looking and listening not to what they were saying but, what they were thinking. George, full of ambition, came from Chicago and explained how he would become a corporate shaman. He would go into corporations and be paid large fees to teach shamanic ways to corporate executives. This caused Jennie to retreat further into herself, resembling more the silent pines than the others in the group. In fact, she never spoke another word all week.
Unlike George, Jennie won’t become a corporate shaman, nor will she become rich (though her horse ranch is doing well and she’ll want for nothing). She won’t be seen on television and she won’t write books about becoming a shaman, preferring simply to live as one like her teacher, old Jose. More likely, Jennie will remain in the Rockies with Wolf, talking to stones, dancing with bears, and rendering unassuming miracles.
Catherine Ann Jones
© Catherine Ann Jones
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Catherine Ann Jones holds a graduate degree in Depth Psychology and Archetypal Mythology from Pacifica Graduate Institute where she has also taught. After playing major roles in over fifty plays, she became disappointed by the lack of good roles for women and wrote a play about Virginia Woolf (On the Edge) and her struggle with madness in a world gone mad, ie, WWII. The play won a National Endowment for the Arts Award. Ten of her plays, including Calamity Jane (both play and musical) and The Women of Cedar Creek, have won multiple awards and are produced both in and out of New York. Her films include The Christmas Wife (Jason Robards & Julie Harris), Unlikely Angel (Dolly Parton), Angel Passing (Hume Cronyn & Teresa Wright) which played at Sundance and went on to garner fifteen awards here and abroad, and the popular TV series, Touched by an Angel. A Fulbright Research Scholar to India studying shamanism, she has taught at The New School University, University of Southern California, and the Esalen and the Omega Institute. Ms. Jones is often invited as a keynote speaker to various writing conferences as well as the Merrill & Lynch sponsored Women, Wealth, & Wisdom Conferences. Her recent book, The Way of Story: the craft & soul of writing, is used in many schools, including New York University writing programs. Ms. Jones lives in Ojai, California, and leads The Way of Story and Heal Yourself with Writing workshops throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. For online courses visit http://www.dailyom.com. For blog, workshops, and consultant services please visit http://www.wayofstory.com.
Catherine Ann Jones