Healing Arts
Kara's Column > A Boulder Fell In My Garden

By Kara L.C. Jones
KotaPress Editor

Editor's Note: This is an updated article from one of our 2001 Different Kind of Parenting zines. A lot has happened since then, and I felt the "coincidences" needed to be shared by revising this article to include and once again share the concept of "a boulder in my garden."

I met a wonderful gentleman named Gary who told me a story about when his mother passed away. He said he'd come up with a metaphor for how grief had come into his life to stay. He had had a beautiful garden that he tended and cared for and groomed and loved. Then one morning, he came out and this huge, awful, heavy, very large boulder crashed right into the middle of his garden. He said, he tried to move it. He tried to break it up. (I imagine myself banging my head on it!) But after awhile, Gary said he realized that it was here to stay. He had to make peace with it, grow around it, maybe carve it out a little and make a niche in it where he could sit down and write for a while.

I was stunned.

Here I am on this grieving path for all these years now. Most days are still too overwhelming for me to really do anything except get by. And suddenly there was this wonderful person telling me that beautiful things could grow around the grief. That I could carve out the grief and find some space in it for writing, creating, being. That I didnít have to bang my head on it anymore.


When I heard from Gary again, he sent this photo and an update about his boulder garden:

What I did with my "Boulder in the Garden": I gathered all my favorite alpine plants and planted them in and around the boulders. Over the years the plants have grown and now the stones don't seems so large anymore. In fact they add a beauty and stability to the garden that was not there before. I look at my garden today and I see the hardness of the stone and the softness of the plants complimenting each other and creating an energy far greater than the sum of it's parts.

And then later, at a grief conference, I happened upon another person, Molly Greist, who also had a metaphor -- no, actually, a real hands-on way of working with stone boulders during grief. After her son died, Molly actually became a stone carver! She'd never held stone carving tools in her life, but suddenly there was a boulder in their garden, and she was overcome with the desire to sculpt it. So she did. And she's amazing.

If you ever get the chance to meet Molly or hear her speak -- or even just get your hands on the film that was made about her journey, please do!! There is something in her story for all of us who have ended up with the boulder of grief in our gardens!

Anyway, all this "boulder coincidence" started me thinking about making a list of ideas for everything you could possible do with the boulder of grief that has landed in the middle of the garden of your life. So here goes:

  • Carve a hole in it thatís big enough to sit in and take cover from the rain
  • Carve a seat out and sit in it like a king or queen observing your garden work
  • One year plant big huge sunflowers around it so that it is draped in beauty
  • The next year plant smaller, stunning flowers to dress it up
  • Try planting tulips so that you are gardening around it in October looking toward Spring
  • Have your friends come over and help you spray paint tags or murals all over it
  • Sit far away from it
  • Sit close to it
  • Walk away from it, turn your back on it
  • Come back to it. Sit next to it and write about it
  • Have your friends come over and write about what it looks like to them
  • Share all those writings with each other
  • Chip away at it a little at a time turning the chips into colored sand making sidewalk art out of it
  • Chip holes in it. Plant seeds in the holes and watch beautiful things grow out of it.
  • On really bad days, kick it and pound it. It can take it.
  • Write a letter to your boulder. Say anything you want. Ask it questions.
  • Personify your boulder. Write a letter to yourself as if you were the boulder! What does it have to say to you?

There must be a million more things you could do with that boulder.

Miracles to you!

Author Biography

Kara L.C. Jones is heARTist and Creative Grief Educator at and

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