Listening to Rocks

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Issue 323
November/December 2020
Life in the Dark

Reviews

Listening to Rocks
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Cover: Moon Moths © Becca Stadtlander, 2020. Exclusively licensed by thebrightagency.com

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Myra Connell enjoys an unusual journey of connection. Stone Talks by Alyson Hallett. Triarchy Press, 2019. ISBN: 9781911193555

Through transcribed lectures, poetry and prose, this “small book of wonder”, as described by the publisher, reveals something of Alyson Hallett’s extraordinary way of living and working.

Hallett is a poet and a mystic. Stones speak to her, starting with a pebble picked up on a beach when she was 19. It had a white cross on it, which moved and intrigued her, and it changed the course of her life from that moment.

She tells us how she has learnt to listen, particularly but not only to stones. Soon after his death, her father appears in a dream and says she must learn obedience. Grudgingly, because she is a rebel, she investigates the derivation of the word and finds that the Latin word ‘ob’ means ‘to’, and audire means ‘to listen’: obedience, she concludes, means ‘to listen to’! She will learn to be obedient to what she hears, from stones, and in her own being.

Walking up Cader Idris, in Wales, she pauses before a solitary stone. A man stops to talk, and tells her it’s an ‘erratic’, a stone that travelled inside a glacier. This is a revelation to her: stones move. Rock is not solid and immovable. Since that moment, following various promptings, she has travelled across continents, carrying stones inscribed with a line from one of her poems: “And stones moved silently across the world.” These mysterious stones are placed, without plaque or explanation, in woodland or on city street, open to all of Nature as well as to humans.

“To do the work I do, the sacred connecting,” she writes, “I have to have days deeply alone where my own company appals me.” She must have “enough time and space to enter the place of Not Knowing”, while she makes a writer’s journeys to the underworld, in search of she knows not what.

Hallett’s achievements in terms of residencies, awards and publications are formidable, and I hope that she continues to find enough time and space to listen. In this quiet and powerful book, she amply demonstrates both the importance and the rewards of doing that.

Myra Connell is a poet and psychotherapist. Her collection House is published by Nine Arches Press.

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