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The Rock Pile- On Raising Lively Boys


Colin Michael was our last child of six and what a joy he was! He came to experienced parents of five who knew the preciousness and briefness of the magical but demanding years of early childhood.

Colin loved life and had an exuberance that daily lifted our spirits from the gloom of overwhelm and life’s burdens to remind and warm the heart about what really matters. He also was extremely active! Wiry and strong, he exulted in constant moving activity and, frankly, as I

bore him at the ripe old age forty three, as a three years old he could fairly easily out run me!

So it was a challenge, and while we treasured each moment of his joyful awakening to the world, by the time he had hit the roaring two’s with the bursts of classical resistance of that age and his constant need to move, explore and burst out with wild throwing, leaping, pounding, jumping, wrestling energy was challenging to say the least. He was, in short, a handful.

Ah, but the old and seasoned Mom had a few tricks up her sleeve and all is fair (that is ‘just’) in corralling and outwitting a 2 1/2 year old as you will see in the telling of this tale.

Colin had our big German Shepherd family dog, Shady, that he adored and grew up with, and the bond was mutual. The boy would exuberantly throw gravel from the driveway in the air and Shady would leap and catch the pebbles. Subsequently, the dog became a rock freak, slathering over stones she was obsessed with and rolling them over and over in her play in her later years.

We lived in a grand old three story home built in the 1890’s, once a mansion of sorts, now with a well worn domicile with cracked plaster on the walls and sagging at the foundations. But what a glorious home for young children with great high ceilings and long stair cases, a laundry chute, many sun porches and places to wrestle, hide, race and run. It was a child’s delight.

Nearby was the American River where, following the famous Gold Rush to California in 1849, ever increasingly sophisticated ways of extracting gold were employed. Enterprising mining companies had set up huge dredges in the river to haul the gold flecked rocks to shore to grind and extract the precious metal. The results of their zeal left a residue of rock piles in ten or fifteen foot in high mounds on both sides of the river, remaining there in the decades that followed. One such site was Sailor Bar park, just a few blocks from our home.

So on one day after several rounds with a particularly wriggly, unreasonable, resistant young lad’s antics, off we went. We drove to the piles of rock and exited with me giving him enthusiastic

encouragement that he could throw “all the rocks he wanted.” What a delirious possibility - too good to be true! Ah, but I was wily fox on this one.

First of all he, (we) had to climb the pile. Now this was no easy enterprise. The rocks were rounded with years of shaping by the current rolling them over and over in the river bottom and therefore they round and slippery and in addition to that they were all loose in the pile so we would climb up two feet and slide back one. Our perseverance was tested from the git go. But the reward was so highly desired we kept going albeit easier for him than it was for me. After determined scrambling we arrived atop the glorious edifice and there we were. Then came the authorizing words to the incredulous ears of a young boy - “You can throw ALL the rocks you want.” Oh, what a gleeful enterprise, and away he went one after another, one hand, the other hand, a rock in each hand, two at the same time!

Several things happening here. Two year old mass, muscle and energy meets unyielding hard and heavy large rock. Glorious combination. Primal lesson in weight and matter, balance and physics and zeal to determine how far could throw. And just so very excellent for giving a well won ‘tired’ to a lad who is going to need a nap and with enough honest fatigue to take one!

After minutes of initial glee the boy might have tired of the project and moved on, but here was the glory of it. He couldn’t easily and sanguinely arise and sprint away! Because to get off the pile required as much effort and slipping and sliding as it did to get up! So Mom actually had the better part of half and hour to sit by while the toddler boy worked the kinks out without Mom having to move and chase. From my slightly uncomfortable perch I could encourage rock throwing till the urge was thoroughly (for the moment) sated.

And that is the nut of it That energy has to go somewhere - and it will! Authorized or unauthorized! - Obviously, the out of control pieces of toddler outbursts need tempering with plenty of good rhythms, rest, regular meals, good boundaries, and balance to the day. But a young boy needs a place to move, push, shove, lift, whirl, twirl and get the joy and experience of doing everything that glorious young body can do and needs a legitimate place to do it. Nothing was more suitable

that that great rock pile where he could harm none, nor destroy the environment, a fellow creature, or a window pane!

Colin’s healthy need to move and move well, never left him throughout his life. He became a basketball star in high school, by then, nearly six foot five inches tall, and a thrill to see as a glorious blur of deft moves and manly strength on the court. His adult profession would be an art of performance movement called Eurythmy, a graceful art form of primal archetypal movement of the universal rhythms and gestures of creation set to music or human speech.

This youngest son would bring the art to his father’s dying room in our family home, lifting his arms in long and graceful gestures of blessing for the father that had so loved and cherished him all his life. We would sit on either side of our loved one, my beloved of sixty five years of marriage, his devoted father for his forty five years of life together. Along with our other wonderful children, we would send the dear patriarch our undying love to accompany his labors to the other side. After his passing surrounded by all his children, Colin would help me with caring and dressing my husband after his passing, his dear form, still powerful in dying even after the brief battle with cancer in his leaving time. Gordon had been a lively rock throwing boy in his nature surrounded youth in the mountains of Northern Arizona as well!

So this rock pile climbing son helped me this time to climb a last great summit in my life, a huge pile of all the memories laid up loosely, yet significantly, and powerfully and wondrously in our marriage, our edifice of life - of all the years we had shared and family we had raised and work we had done together in the world. And there I would not throw rocks but shape words to fly out into the the universe, “It is sometimes hard, it takes just so darned much work, but the view and feeling of freedom from the summit is like no other. Thank you, God, for a life filled with challenges, and goodness, and growing, and wonder, and family, and the exuberance of wild young boys. Thank you for this life on earth, God blessed for us all with the gift of Life and Love.

Mother, Nancy Jewel Poer,

(Written on Colin’s 47th birthday, Dec 2, 1019)


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