A stone story

When I was a little girl, I was often taken on walks. Long walks. At the best of times I was wont to lag behind – after all, I was small at the time, with little legs, and the youngest of the family. At other times, times where there were exciting things to distract me from the order of the day, I lagged for longer, ending up yet further behind the others, concentrating intently on what had caught my eye – a wriggling worm, a busy ant, a shiny piece of glass…. or a pretty stone.

What’s this to do with beads? I’ve been captivated all over again by the look and feel of stones in recent weeks, having found myself near the beach at beautiful Pevensey Bay where I’ve had occasion to be fairly regularly. This is a typical East Sussex shingle beach, with smooth, round, sandwashed flinty pebbles in shades of grey, brown, ochre, white, cream and black. Beachy colours. The sight – and the feel – of all these beautiful stones has taken me right back to one of those long walks in particular, and my recent stonesoft beads pay homage to that day.

I was one of those kids who would have to pick up every stone that caught my eye on visits to the beach. One particular occasion springs to mind, on a long, long meandering walk at Cuckmere Haven, past oxbow lakes, encountering dog-walkers and whizzing bicycles. Seagulls. Skylarks.

The beach provided such excitement on that day! I’m not sure whether it was because of the angle of the light, recent tidal activity bringing extra-special stones to the beach, or just my own sky-sparkly imaginations, but the stones on this day were treasures. There were translucent seams of quartz, and sea-tumbled, curved-edged bubble-like inclusions hiding in three-quarters-broken pieces of flint, and other chips and chunks the like of which I’ve met since in rock shops, and that at the time I didn’t know were pieces of geodes.

By the time we left the beach I’d filled my tiny blue rucksack so full of these gorgeous treasures that I was moving even slower than my snail-paced distracted habit usually determined. These beautiful stones, some sparkly, some smooth, were heavy. It took me an age to even reach the gate from the beach, and the others were losing patience. In no hurry, I briefly paused, then squatted down to catch my breath….. and toppled over backwards.

They laughed, then sighed, frustrated at the added delay. I sobbed. “My” stones, my treasures, the beautiful things that I’d chosen, scooped up, stroked and stowed, had to be left behind. Taking my time, I took them one by one – all but one – out of the little blue rucksack, and left them next to the gatepost that was half on the beach, half on the path. And cried. And walked slowly back along the long route to the car. Deliberately slowly.

The rule had always been ‘you want it, you carry it’. That’s why they had to be left.

Now I’m a grown-up, on beach walks I ration myself to just one little stone for my collection. One. The beach needs them more than I do. We need to think about these things.

I still have the one stone that made it home that day. It’s by my parents’ pond. And it’s beautiful.

Click here to find some stonesoft beads in the shop.