Everybody Needs a Rock

“What’s your rock?” Sophie asked, eyebrows raised, mouth twisted sideways in her typical “concentrated listening” facial expression.  It had been a frustrating morning, and I was having a hard time being nice, even to Sophie.  It’s safe to say I was a “grouch” that morning, and on a bluebird sky day no less!

“What do you mean?” I said impatiently.

“Everyone has a rock… You know, that thing you turn to when you need something to ground you, to give you back some sense of peace and order.  Mine is skiing.  What’s yours?”

Hmm…reading? Writing? Running? Biking? They’re all “zen” activities for me.

“Writing,” I said.  Definitely.


In 1974, Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall published the most simple of books, called Everybody Needs A Rock.

“I’m sorry for kids who don’t have a rock for a friend,” writes Baylor.  “I’m sorry for kids who only have tricycles, bicycles, horses, elephants, goldfish, three-roomed playhouses, fire engines, wind-up dragons and things like that—if they don’t have a rock for a friend.”  The book proceeds to list ten steps for “finding a rock…a special rock that you find yourself and keep as long as you can—maybe forever.”

Forever? Such an elusive concept for kids and adults alike.  The rock is the forever, while the tricycles and wind-up dragons are the present moment—a state that changes from one minute to the next, as malleable as Play-Doh.  Sure, you can make anything out of Play-Doh (and it’s darn fun, too!), but Play-Doh isn’t half so reliable as a rock.  One day, the yellow Doh turns brown and your favorite red color cracks and crumbles in your hands.  It gets stuck in the treads of your shoes and in your fingernails, giving your fries a Play-Doh aftertaste…yuck!

A rock, on the other hand, will always be a rock.  It won’t splurge through your fingers when you squeeze it, or change colors when you have dirty hands.  Other kids won’t try to take it from you—it’s just a rock after all.  Maybe it doesn’t seem as fun as Play-Doh, but it’s yours forever and when playhouses and fire engines break you’ve always got your rock.

Few things are so reliable. You can always close your hand around a rock and know that some things in life are just there.  For some, real rocks are their rock (any geologists out there?).  For others, the “rock” is more abstract, like family or yoga or music.  Mine is writing, Sophie’s is skiing.  Either way, everybody needs a rock.

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