They’re called worry stones. Soothing stones … palm stones … thumb stones.
Smoothed and shaped by moving water, the Greeks chose such stones from the sea. In Tibet, they were claimed from melting snows and high mountain river beds. In Ireland they were most often picked up from the edges of ancient lakes. Native Americans selected them not only for themselves, but to hand down from one generation to the next – creating a sense of sacred connectedness, of unbroken peace and symbolism to be forever cherished.
The most prized of these stones have always been quartz.
Most of us recognize a worry stone – a soothing stone – from its soft oval shape and gentle center indentation, the size and slope of a thumb print. Small and easily tucked into the palm of a hand, the shape is said to be “intuitive” – causing the holder to rub the indentation against their thumb instinctively, almost unconsciously. The sensory feel of the stone and the repetitive movement it inspires can, indeed, help ease the tightness of anxiety and bring respite to a breathless soul.
Recent studies are showing that these simple stones will often effectively reach post-traumatic children. They can calm ragged, uncertain hearts. And help fright-filled minds refocus, recalling them from splintered thoughts and jagged-edged senses.
There is something about these stones that makes us feel more grounded. Perhaps it is because of the nature of the quartz itself: it is one of the earth’s most bountiful and beautiful stones, and it is a “piezoelectric” crystal – which is a rather fancy way of saying it can transform energy from one form into another (like mechanical into electrical). So the idea of releasing our human energy into a smooth quartz stone with our touch, and allowing that energy to be captured and transformed and then scattered away freely into the cleansing breath of the world, is quite literal and valid.
I have been completely captivated by stones most of my life. River stones by preference. Quartz in particular. With all their sizes and shapes and colors and textures, their individuality, their stories. I suspect I am not alone.
There are many among us who adore a stone cottage by the side of a stream … and cobblestone streets (especially those reputedly made of repurposed ship ballast in Charleston and other coastal towns). We are fascinated by the way stone can change over time – living, growing, evolving, perhaps even breathing. A few believers have actually used time-lapse photography and strapped GPS systems to the backs of rocks called “Sailing Stones” (which reside only in DeathValley) to calculate that the stones do, in fact, move – quite possibly all on their own – certainly within their own sense of time and at their own pace.
I also suspect there are others who harbor a hunch along with me that the ancient monoliths of Europe and the Pacific might exist more for the pure energy they emit – compelling us, attracting us, affecting us – than simply for the shadows they cast when the sun is just so.
I have always collected stones for one reason or another. (I even bought an intriguing one at a rummage sale once when I was very young – an entire allowance for a single stone.) I find them as I travel. My friends bring them to me as gifts. I feature stones frequently in my writing and as images in my books.
But I am especially drawn to stones that are in the shape of hearts. More especially those made by nature alone. Because to me, it is no small thing to know that naturally shaped heart-stones have been made that way – cut and smoothed and artfully crafted – by all the bumps and battering, the sudden impacts, the constant rubbing up against impossible things that they have encountered along their life journeys. And that they are among the most fragile. The most easily broken. Like our own hearts, like those of all living, breathing, creatures, heart-shaped stones are the most vulnerable.
Perhaps these stone hearts are meant to be a different kind of “soothing stone.” Perhaps they are meant to remind us to treat all the hearts of the world gently, intentionally, kindly, mindful of their fragility … and as if they were resting in the very palm of our hand.