Find a stone, note its color, look for that color every day of the week, and write down where the stone's color appears. Simple assignment. The next step, to paint the stone, is the hard part. Stones are difficult to paint. They often end up looking like potatoes.
When I looked for a stone in our yard, I discovered a dirty pot filled with mud and small stones. Instead of doing my assignment, I squatted down, hunched over the pot, my hands between my knees, and dug into the pot filled with dried mud and stones. I told myself that this chore meant the stone wouldn't be carelessly tossed out into the bushes. The stones in my pot were river washed, smooth and cool to the touch. They were not the craggy rocks that we find when we dig in the dirt in our backyard.
The smooth stones reminded me of the stone slabs that formed the stairs leading to the Inner Ise Shrine, part of Ise Jingu, a beautiful park and the spiritual home of the Japanese emperor, near Ise City in Japan. The stones leading to the torii gate of the main shrine are huge, but so carefully placed that the seams from one rock lined up with the seams of another. I found it hard to imagine such craftsmanship. The area is dedicated to the Japanese sun god, but it is also a premier example of the value the Japanese place on workmanship. The buildings on the site are not old, though the area dates back to 4 BCE. Every twenty years a new shrine is built near the current one, which is then disassembled. Everything in the shrine is also reconstructed including textiles. The workers maintain the building skills needed to construct these structures by their continuous renewal.
Digging through the mud in my pot recalled my collection of stones that I started after I took a geography class. I was fascinated by the earth stories that I could see in the stone. I remember the names, igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary, which describe how each rock is formed. Igneous rocks form from liquid, molten lava, for instance. Sedimentary rocks develop from particles of sand, shells, and other material while metamorphic rocks such as slate or marble are the result of existing rocks changing because of intense pressure and temperature. The different materials in the stones made the stones seem like pieces of art.
Instead of getting up, I continued, hunched over, my hands in a clay pot filled with dried mud and stones. Why did I persist? Perhaps taking the stones out one at a time reminded me of my childhood love of collecting rocks. Perhaps separating them from the dirt and dunking them in water became meditative and I didn't want to stop until finished. Maybe once I had found all the stones, I could select just one stone, note its color, find samples of that color in other places, and try to paint that stone.
Read more about Ise Shrine here: