Erratic Behavior

Everyone has their own story about stone. While hanging out with the cinematographer who taped the video that became “Stone Rising”, John M. told me about a stone that made a big impression on him as a boy.

Beginning early in primary school, John heard whispers from his schoolmates about certain landmarks in the forbidden reaches of the school grounds called “the big boulder” and “the clift.” During recess, some of the older kids would steal away to a precipice on the rim of an abandoned sand pit. There they would engage in covert activities until a teacher noticed their absence and called them back to the playground. In his mind, and his classmate’s, the clift was formed at the time of the dinosaurs or by the explosion of an A-bomb dropped from a helicopter. Dinosaurs, A-bombs and helicopters were all objects of intense interest to kids growing up the 1950’s.
At the top of the clift (pronunciation of the word was of equally obscure origins) rested a very large boulder. Surreptitious excavations under the clift-side edge of the great erratic had been instigated years prior, becoming an obsession with an entire generation of school kids. By the time John reached fifth grade a shallow cave had been hollowed out under the stone. It was assumed by all that one day the underpinnings would give way and the boulder would topple. When John was initiated into the clandestine digging, a sage sixth grader confided that, considering the enormity of the task, he didn’t expected to see it shift during his time left at school. None the less, the boy kept pawing sand.
In the spring of John’s sixth year, the boulder broke free from the embankment. John was there as it started to slip. It didn’t simply slump into the depression, or begin to slide down the embankment. It slowly began to turn. The kids scrambled clear of the behemoth as it flipped once, twice, and then again and again. The earth shook as the stone pounded its way down the slope. Spindly trees lay flattened in its wake. Shock waves shook the schoolyard. Alarmed teachers initiated an air raid alert and hustled the students back to their classrooms.
Although efforts to undermine the stone had been going on for years, when it actually took off down the hill, the kids were astonished by the power they’d unleashed. A trail of dust followed the lumbering giant to the bottom of the pit, lingering in the air above “the big boulder” as it rocked into its final resting place.
Today, that boulder is no different than any other in the landscape of southern Connecticut; just one more glacial erratic deposited at the end of the last ice age. Only John’s story distinguishes it from similar stones in the area. Geology can offer a general history of stone but only our personal experiences can tell its unique story.

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