I acquired a somewhat large piece of raw turquoise a while ago, about the size of my fist. Not really sure why I wanted one that size, because I carry a small one in my jeans pocket. I tell folks it’s for good luck. Truth is, I just like carrying it. The big one is much too large to carry, so it sits on a shelf with some other treasures I have acquired over time.
The other day I was asked by a friend why I had such a pretty rock among my little carvings. Well, that opened a door that I had to just run through. I briefly explained the history of carvings, or fetishes. They started as “found stones,” and Native Americans believed that these stones resembled certain wildlife in the area. Later, carvers began to carve tiny figures out of the stones, more closely resembling the wildlife. These fetishes became prized possessions and were traded among the carvers and other Native Americans. Over time, different fetishes were seen to possess characteristics of the animals they modeled, such as wily foxes or fierce badgers, and those characteristics were further transferred to the fetish owners. Today, Native American carvers use a wide variety of materials from which to make their fetishes, often bringing exquisite detail to their small creations. Skilled carvers can bring amazing beauty from seemingly unappealing raw materials.
My favorite stone is turquoise, thus my desire to have a large piece among my collection. The pretty rock was in fact from the Kingman turquoise mine. It was from this mine and many others in the Southwest that produced raw stone from which Navajo, Zuni, and Hopi Native Americans carved fetishes and decorated their jewelry. Of course I had to show my friend a beautiful squash blossom necklace my wife has, showing the artistry of silversmithing combined with delicate turquoise carving. After a long conversation regarding the varied talents of Native American artists, ranging from fetishes and jewelry to pottery, weavings, and baskets, our conversation began to wander a bit in a different direction. We began to talk of these materials and creations as metaphors for people, taking me down a well-traveled path.
As we were in the midst of the holiday season, with Christmas still fresh in our memories, I began to see the “pretty rock” as a work in process; much like people are. We all have good qualities. We all have something inside of us just waiting to be finished. If the artist never used the piece of turquoise it remains just a “pretty rock.” On the other hand, when the artist begins to work with the stone and chip away the “undesirable” parts, works it into the shape desired, polishes it, and places it in a setting, it becomes much more than a pretty rock or an unfinished turquoise stone.
As we talked about the true meaning of Christmas, and how a simple event two thousand years ago changed our world forever, this metaphor took shape even more. I started thinking of people as those unfinished works in process, just waiting for the next step. We have each been given the opportunity to chip away our undesirable pieces and become better people, caring for each other and helping others to succeed.
I gazed at that seemingly insignificant pretty rock again. With a skilled artist, the rock has in it the ability to become much more. For us, we can smooth out rough edges, and we can use the help of the “Artist” above to guide our way to becoming better people. Regardless of your system of beliefs, you can become a better person, as can I. What better time than during this holiday season, when everyone has kind thoughts about their fellow man, to begin chipping away at some of the undesirable parts. Maybe we’ll just knock off a few small flakes at first, but it is a start. We will never know what we can become until we take the journey.
Adios for now,