Stone Surprised: Weekly Photo Challenge

Surprise? Wonder? The unexpected? Stones surprise me. I can’t help being attracted to stones – as a three year old I happily spent summer hours digging holes in our back garden for them.

I don’t hoard stones – only have a couple at home that still ‘speak’ to me. Funny that.

Last year I had to photograph this beauty before I parted with it … gave it away as a Thank You note. The recipients were very gracious and said they’d put it in their garden.

It was the best one I’d found while I was walking along the shore at Glenelg, on Scotland’s west coast. I crunched along the rocky beach, looking over to Skye, listening to the soft swish of the water and the occasional sheep bleat from the hills. There wasn’t a soul around and then I looked down.DSCF4798

Look at all the stories in these stones. How did they get those marks? Where have they come from? How long ago? Is that a man’s face? What happened to him?  I spent another happy hour searching.

When the sun went in, I stumbled away with the stones I couldn’t leave behind in my pocket. DSCF4796

Stories are like that.

When I think of a story about surprises and stones, I recall a favourite Tibetan folktale, an initiation story, called The Boy, His Sisters, and The Magic Horse from Gioia Timpanelli’s collection. (I’ve mentioned this story before in an earlier post.)

An old hunter’s young son refused to kill any animal. Next morning the boy’s surprised when his father leads him to a freshly dug hole and tells him to get in. Although he’s very afraid, the son does as he’s told and his father slides a big stone over the top. His father then scrapes on it “Open or not as you please” and walks away.

After some hours, while the boy sits motionless, but for the tears down his cheeks, three monks come walking past. They see the sign on the stone which makes them curious and they stop. If anything, most stones would usually have ‘Om mani padme hum‘ written on them. The lamas debate what to do, agree to open it up and are surprised to see a boy looking up at them. They help him out and the boy’s adventures begin …

Surprise is an essential elements in any story…as well as in everyday life…just have to stay involved and pay attention…never know what might happen next…when you least expect it…all part of coming to terms with the certainty of uncertainty.


Reference sources

Om mani padme hum. Wikipedia. Accessed 13 April 2017. (See photo of stone with this  inscription)

TIMPANELLI, Gioia. The Boy, His Sisters and the Magic Horse in Tales from the Roof of the World: Folktales of Tibet. New York, Viking, 1984. pp 3- 13. (NB. Tale is also known as ‘The Young Man Who Refused to Kill.)

All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Making Peace

The Boy, his Sisters and the Magic Horse is a Tibetan tale retold in a collection by Gioia Timpanelli. The story opens with the father digging a hole and telling his son to get in, because his son refused to hunt and kill animals for food. He inscribes “Open or not as you please”  on the slab he slides on top of the boy. I have always been in awe of the son’s compassion for his parents at the end of this tale.

Folktales are full of warnings about fathers who trade their daughters, abuse, or imprison them, or worse. Some children get precious little from their fathers. And I’ve been thinking about mine.

 My father had good timing, at odd times.

 Waking us three kids up, to stand in our PJs and wellies below our big coats, in the knee-deep snow of the back garden to wonder, open-mouthed,  at the flickering Aurora Borealis in a velvet sky, late, late one January night.

Accompanying him on each Sunday walk as a child, taught me patience and to enjoy the peace of nature, as we crouched waiting for native finches to be caught in the traps he’d set. I still like bird-watching. Here, at last, is a close-up of the shy Buff-colured Rail from one of my daily walks.

Buff-coloured Rail

 On occasions he has surprised me with simple gifts, like this letter in response to a book I sent him (“The Cunning Little Vixen, illustrated by Maurice Sendak). It’s the only evidence I have of his handwriting. (“Hen” is a Scots form of familiarity with a woman)


One time when I was visiting, he was very proud of a large white shell he’d picked up on the island of Coll in the Inner Hebrides. “You can have it,” he said.


On another visit back home, he slipped this to me.


“It’s a Penny-Spitfire.”

During WW11 he and his pals in the RAF workshop near Reykjavik, used to make them, on the fly, from a copper coin, and give them to the WAFs they liked, to pin to their uniforms.

When I was younger I fought a lot with my father … arguments, tantrums, name-calling. The last fight was in my twenties. I stormed out of their sea-side caravan, fuming into the gloaming for a good long walk and got back hours later. The caravan was dark. They’d gone to the pub … and by a park light, I saw pinned to the door was a torn, brown envelope, and written in my father’s hand.

“Come home. Meg, ALL is forgiven.”

Well, that did it. Peace ever since.

All photos and text by Meg

Story Twigs …! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.