I can never fully get my head around the connotations of ‘being someone’s rock’, whether it is a good thing or not. It sounds, to me, like it should be a compliment (‘he’s my rock’, ‘solid as a rock’), signifying security, sturdiness, strength.
But, I do wonder would I really want a rock in my life? Wouldn’t a bird be more fun and free? Or a grain of sand that drifts along on a burst of wind, forms new landscapes but is then blasted off again before any permanence can take place? Wouldn’t it stop me feeling weighted down?
Maybe it’s my own restless nature that drives these thoughts, my own inability to feel grounded and solid like a rock. But whilst strength is an attribute I can relate to, security and sturdiness smack of a bit of boringness to me.
On Day 3 of the Uyuni tour, however, I would encounter rocks that would make me rethink by being anything but boring. I love being challenged.
Bring it on.
It was gone 09:00am on a brisk April day when we stopped off at a collection of rocks jutting out awkwardly and obviously on an otherwise flat desert landscape. A few jeeps clustered at one end but the main rush of tourists had long left to do border drop-offs.
Not having any of our tour group transiting on to Chile bought us a couple of hours sleep-in, something my altitude tired body was seriously grateful for. The double beauty of this situation was that we also now didn’t have to share this rock garden with anyone else. Nearly.
We climbed and clambered, photographed and peered through corroded spy holes. Shapes had emerged from these hunks of rocks, delicate curves and smooth edges, precipices of chiselled stone, all created by nature’s craftsmanship.
These soft stones, I realised, were in a constant state of change and would keep adapting until the last formation gave way to a crumbly disintegration, the final fragments joining other grains of sand in a desert sea, free to go with the flow of the whispering wind.
Who knows what timescale we’re talking about, but these ‘solid’ rocks were creating beauty, movement and stories; changing and adapting. They certainly weren’t ‘stuck’. They were, I realised, just stopping momentarily on a much bigger journey.
Later in the day the desert roadsides became increasingly strewn with sharp-edged rocks, density increasing until we finally stopped by the Valley of the Rocks.
Created by volcano lava flow, the rocks here are tougher – individually and as a group – chunked together, stocky things with the odd touch of elegance thrown in to soften the overall visual impact.
And then I encountered the stone that sealed the deal.
Just before we left the Valley of the Rocks, Gonzalo, our guide, showed the group a rock on which grew yalreita*, a fuzzy, dry growth of green with a mossy appearance. Yalreita, Gonzalo told us, grew over years and decades until it died off. In death it became drier still. Locals sought it out, carried home hunks of the flammable cast-off and used it to fuel fires and keep some Bolivian cold at bay.
So a stone that provides an environment that gives life to a plant that gives warmth to humans? Rocks are far more complex than I first thought.
Maybe being called ‘solid as a rock’ or someone’s rock isn’t so bad after all (not that I can claim to ever having had those comments directed at me). For the time being, I’ll be my own rock. I feel pretty grounded in myself, just not settled in a certain place. As it turns out, complexity and solidity don’t have to be exclusive and being a rock, I realise, definitely doesn’t have to mean stuck and boring.
And when I’m ready to be rock steady, I’m sure I’ll be able to be solid and settled for someone else too.
*I’ve tried to research yalreita but with no success. If anyone has any further insight or an alternative plant name, I’d love to hear from you and correct this post.