Where our land meets our neighbors’ is a large rock. A landmark for miles, it is the cornerpiece of three different properties. An old survey marker decorates the far side like a beauty mark. Our side is wild and untouched. A road arches and writhes up the steep hill to the left and there, a hand hewn small quarry displays where the massive rock sheds smooth sided pale green pavers like scales. Most of us nearby have some tucked into flowerbeds or creating pathways. Presumably it is some kind of chert but geologists are stumped. One friend took pieces with him to his job at the USGS. Everyone poked, proded, and tested it but they had never seen anything like it. It is a Sphinx, rare and unusual.
Climbing to the top is difficult and intimidating. The bottom isn’t a tame place either. Once my middle son went exploring a crevice, a sort of tunnel writhing through a corner of the base. About 14 years old at the time, he wandered here by himself one afternoon. Though he had been to the spot often before, this time he noticed there were animal bones in front of the crevice. Bending down looking at the bones, he saw through to the light on the other side and he decided he could squeeze in and then out the other side. At first he crouched and twisted but soon he slid onto his belly. Rock pressed tighter and tighter. Rock pushed from the top and dirt from the bottom. He no longer could get much leverage with his arms and found himself trapped, barely able to move his chest enough to breath. He couldn’t go forward. He couldn’t even push back. For a long time he lay in the dark panting his fear in the shallow breaths allowed by such a tight space.
He hadn’t told anyone where he was going. We live on hundreds of acres of wild country. How would anyone find him here, in a crack, in the dark. Even his shallow breaths dug his skinny back into the rough rock above. The bones outside seemed ominous now–a warning. In desperation he thrust himself the few millimeters of movement he could in any direction. The rock pressing into his spine ripped a hole in his shirt and tore his skin.
With one last desperate hope, he blew out every puff of air and threw himself forward.
Just as he thought he was stuck tighter, his shoulders found a slight depression in the side of the rock and that was enough. He turned and wiggled into the slightly wider space and then was able to writhe out the short distance to the other side.
The rock and the land around can be proded and explored but like any giant beast, we’ve learned to treat it with caution. Though it is beautiful, it just might bite.