A woman carries a doe forward. The woman is naked and smooth and stands erect. The doe’s coat appears smooth, but short strands of hair are visible on a closer look. The doe is limp in the woman’s hands, its legs hanging down, its head over the woman’s shoulder and tilted back in an unnatural manner. It is no longer alive. The woman doesn’t embrace the doe, nor does she carry it deliberately, though she could, with most of its weight flung over her shoulder. Instead, she holds it rigidly, its back against her belly, the doe facing outward, forward. Where the woman is going with the doe isn’t clear, or for what purpose. Only forward.
On my desk is a stone I have used as a paperweight for twenty-seven years. The stone is round and flat, its shape from above almost a perfect circle. It’s what some people call a moonstone. It feels smooth but isn’t polished, and in a certain light its color shifts from blue-gray to a darker gray. Its weight is surprising. It is heavy. When I pick the stone up, at first it seems to fit the palm of my hand, and then overwhelms it.
I found the stone on a beach near Lubec, Maine, in 1989. Lubec is the easternmost point in the continental United States, way downeast on the Maine coast, where the sun rises first. That summer day was pristine—windy and brisk, sunny and clear. All afternoon, my four-year-old daughter and I combed the sand, unusual at the Maine shore, collecting stones. When we returned home, we hauled our bag of beach loot inside, laid the stones out on the floor, and made small piles of the ones we liked, grouping them by shape, color, texture, size, feel. I selected the stones that I thought would look best in the garden I had planted in front of the house. My daughter had her own preferences and made her own choices. I think she especially liked the heart-shaped stones. But I confess my memory about that has faded, so much storm and stress followed. Two years later I left my husband and our log cabin on fifty acres in Maine to start a new life with our daughter in upstate New York.
What do we choose to carry forward into a new life? There are the obvious things that meet our needs: a few sticks of furniture, the everyday contents of cupboards and closets, favorite books off shelves, small items from drawers. Nestled in one of the many boxes that I packed for the move was the round, almost perfect stone I had found on the beach that day, now nearly thirty years ago. When I look at it on my desk, I see not a memento of a pristine place where the sun rises first, but something stolen from a place at the end of the world. I keep it as a reminder that I went there and somehow got back.
Marian Rogers is a freelance editor of scholarly nonfiction and holds a PhD in classics from Brown University. She has been a participant in the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop in Literary Nonfiction, where she has written about place, the natural world, travel, myth, family, and identity. She lives in Ithaca, NY.