The Intersection of Scotland and Zen

With seventy-percent of the earth’s surface covered by water, it’s no wonder the ocean is nature’s most spectacular force.

Colloquially known as Paddy’s Milestone, Ailsa Craig—a beautiful island just off the west coast of Scotland—is where the stones in our pendants were collected. The stones were smoothed by the tumbling waves of the sea, and are now worn by my husband, son, and self.

Scottosh Sea Slate


  • Simplicity
  • Inner peace
  • Strength to weather a storm


  • Be calm and patient
  • Be yourself—down-to-earth, non-superficial
  • Flow—move forward with the natural current of life, don’t fight against the tides

In Scotland, it’s traditional to carry a stone from the bottom of a hill to place on a cairn at its top. In such a fashion, cairns grow ever larger. An old Scottish Gaelic blessing is Cuiridh mi clach air do chàrn — “I’ll put a stone on your cairn.”

Do you have a favorite tradition?

Laurie Buchanan

Whatever you are not changing, you are  choosing.” — Laurie Buchanan

The Book — Discovering the Seven Selves
The Experience — Life Harmony

© Laurie Buchanan 2014

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62 thoughts on “The Intersection of Scotland and Zen

  1. Beautiful stones. We have some that are similar on our back porch that came from Lake Michigan, I believe. There was a quaint lodge up there that we visited a few times, called Nanaboujou. You are a treasure, Laurie.

  2. Thank you for stopping by at my blog and for liking one of my posts ”Be watchful” which now link me to your awesome blog. What an interesting blog you have here. May the favor and blessing of God never pass you by in the name of Jesus Christ. May He beam His light of protection upon you in the name of Jesus Christ. I hope to read more from you.

  3. Oh, those necklaces are gorgeous! So, it’s not exactly the same, but all of my siblings have dogs, and three of us each have a Maltese. No idea how they became the family dog of choice, as we had NO dogs as kids. Hope you are staying warm, Laurie!

    Hugs from Ecuador,

  4. Laurie! And a good mornin’ to ya. My family’s roots are from Scotland primarily (and Wales), so this post is my favorite so far.

    The cairns remind me of a representation of people (Wikipedia had a great definition). That we are all different, on a different yet parallel journey, but a journey in which one cannot be fully whole without the other. IMHO. 🙂

    But that is not the question you asked…

    My favorite tradition is being alone in Nature. Whereever I am. It’s simply the best Teacher, Mother, Friend, and calming force in my Life.

    Thanks, Laurie. I really needed this today.

    P.S. You wouldn’t know where I could buy one of these necklaces, would you? Thx, Deb

  5. Your stones are lovely. My husband and I have a “stone thing.” We bring homes stones from wherever we travel. One summer, touring the Pacific Northwest coast, we came home with an entire suitcase full of them. I place them in baskets, my garden, on windowsills, or wherever there is a tiny niche for one more. It keeps the places we love close to our hearts.

  6. What a beautiful reminder! I love the symbolism of your necklaces. Traditions are lovely to make. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate our lives and to find presence in our moments. I always love your posts!

    • Dyan – I’m glad you enjoy Tuesdays with Laurie, thank you for letting me know. I love your observation: “…a wonderful way to celebrate our lives and to find presence in our moments.” 🙂

  7. Laurie, I have some beautiful, ocean-tumbled stones from the East coast of Newfoundland. They are treasures to me. I don’t know if it can be called a tradition or not, but every Spring for the last nearly 175 years, my family members, my self included have planted their Kitchen gardens in Cherokee County, Georgia. Proving once again that People got to eat! Short note, it’s snowing like 400 here!

    • Sandi – Yep, I’m pretty sure that anything that’s been repeated by a family for 175 is a rock solid tradition! 🙂

      As you know, we’ve been without internet since Saturday, but I’ve managed to keep up a bit with my iPhone. You guys are getting hammered. And unlike us (in the midwest we at least have clothes for it), you guys are getting blind-sided, so you’re not prepared. I can’t get over all those kids having to sleep at school!

  8. These are beautiful Laurie and so perfect a symbol and reminder to live by. I am not sure I do have a tradition at least not one like this. I have lots of shared practices that come and go over time but traditions seems to escape us.

  9. Love the stone necklaces, Laurie. But then again, I waffled between geology and English as a major, so it makes sense that I adore rocks (and have been known to lick them to determine what I’ve got in my hand. Ha ha). The English major in me loves the symbolism, tough, so this was the perfect post!

    • Melissa – I think it’s cool that you “waffled between geology and English!” And you certainly live in an interesting part of the country where you’ve got all sorts of geological wonderments to enjoy, while at the same time, writing to your heart’s content. I think you got the best of both worlds! 🙂

  10. I have mentioned in previous posts , Laurie , that we are self -building a house in Mid-Wales . My half-house (as I call it is just three miles from the beach , and although I perhaps shouldn’t , I collect pebbles, shells ,sea glass, drift wood …anything I can lay my hands on (actually ,much to my husband disgust I came back with an old wellington boot for planting flowers in ) So , Laurie , you have given me a great idea for a necklace .
    I agree with Jeff about you being my weekly tradition …

    • Cherry – I think an old Wellie will be adorable with flowers popping out the top! 🙂 And I’m tickled that you’ve gotten a good idea here! Thank you for making Tuesdays with Laurie a weekly tradition! 🙂

  11. These are wonderful artifacts Laurie, and their origin will always brings back some very special memories. We always maintained a tradition over many years of collecting shells by the seashore and then coloring them. That tradition is maintained whenever we stay near the ocean during summer respites. Beautiful post Laurie!

  12. My paternal grandparents wore Mizpah rings. (Mizpah is a simple prayer: May the Lord (universe, Gai) watch between thee and me while we are parted–one from the other.) This is a family tradition my husband and I have continued. And now, though the sea tides may be rocky and city traffic heavy, I know he will return safely to me every Tuesday and Wednesday.

    Thank you for sharing your tradition with me, Laurie.

  13. It was our family tradition while I lived in Scotland to take a two week summer holiday in Girvan. We always booked a boat trip to Ailsa Craig, which was a bird sanctuary at that time. I remember that the granite is used for curling stones. But I read recently that the Ailsa Craig is up for sale. Here is the article:

    Our current family tradition, starting in 1980, is gathering for a few days at my house for Thanksgiving and at my brother’s home for Christmas . We have kept the same menus for meals. A few years ago my brother and I discussed celebrating at a resort during the holidays; however, our children, all in their 30s, would not hear of it and insisted we keep the old tradition going.

  14. These are beautiful, Laurie, so simple and natural. I love the reminder to move forward with the natural current of life. To not fight against the tides, even when the natural current is flowing towards death and release. Not to be morbid, but dying at home surrounded by family seems to be becoming a sacred tradition in our family. Thank you for this timely post.

  15. The title drew me in, Laurie. Stones are often freighted with meaning: Think Stonehenge or the stones of remembrance of the Israelites. Your stones are beautiful artifacts, ocean-tumbled connecting you seamlessly with nature.

    My husband and I are both wearing wedding bands he made from sterling silver during a jewelry-making class during his graduate school days. We prefer them to the original, store-bought ones.

    • Marian – Your rings sound very special (you’ll have to blog about that)! I’ve seen your husbands drawings on your blog, but to know that he can make jewelry as well, that’s pretty darned cool!

  16. I used to have a necklace just like one of these! Wore it exactly for one year. And then one day, one fine summer day 365 sunrises later–I threw it back in the lake. They are special indeed.

  17. Nearly ten years ago I had a very happy day gathering 120 pebbles on North Berwick beach (east coast of Scotland) with my sisters and my then very young and immensely cute nephews. That night, with all the boys in bed, us ladies swirled and curled a name on each one and a week later they were the “name cards” at our wedding reception.
    Unbeknownst to us, everyone took their pebbles home and now, whenever we visit our friends and family, those lovely little wedding pebbles are always somewhere in their houses or gardens. My boys now have their own tradition of “hunt the wedding stones” and love to see where exactly they’ll turn up.
    Very happy days and memories of pulling together a beautiful wedding on a shoestring budget. x

  18. In ancient times one of our Hindu Gods took an avatar and came down to the earth as KRISHNA,Carrying his horoscope- the details of the planetary position at the time of his birth- is considered to be beneficial in some circles and I carry a wallet size print.

  19. Laurie, thank you for this interesting insight. I love the Jewish tradition of placing a rock on the headstone of a loved one when you have visited their grave site. It is a symbol of love, respect, and a way to honor that individual and show that you have not forgotten them. It was fascinating and educational reading your post and others comments. It demonstrates how connect and similar we all are!

  20. Beautiful stones, Laurie. I too collect stones that catch my eye on the beach, as well as shells, which I tend to put around house plants and on the border in my garden. I agree, simplicity is enriching and it is important to maintain traditions, as they give us a sense of belonging, without stopping us from moving forward.

  21. My father’s family was from Scotland and lived in Ontario, Canada, he was always carrying rocks up the hill and when he was contemplating something big, he had a smooth stone in his pocket. He called it a focusing habit, and said his father always did that too.
    When he went on a work trip he always brought us home “socks” as a stay at home present – I think this was because his mother knit socks when she, a nurse, and the doctor were traveling around the countryside helping folks in need.
    I have one child who loves stones and rocks and I bring her something whenever we go on a trip.
    Welcome back to on line – and what neat thoughts to share today.
    Power to you and your internet server!

    • Patricia – I think some people call a smooth pocket stone a “worry stone.” prefer your father’s term of focusing habit. And it’s neat that he painted the warm memory of socks as stay at home presents 🙂

  22. That’s a beautiful tradition, and I didn’t know of it. My grandmother was born and raised in Scotland until she came to the U.S. as a teen, and she shared some of the traditions, but this one I’ve never heard. I can’t think of any family tradition that’s tied to such wonderful symbolism, but I’ll be thinking. May need to start one! Debra

  23. We collect either a tiny stone or a tiny bit of sand from all of the new places we visit. We have built a small altar and sit in front of it whenever we feel the need to ground ourselves (or daydream about glorious adventures– or both!) Beautiful pendants, Laurie.

  24. I will take a Laurie and her followers on the rocks – awesome post and comments!!!
    My only tradition is growing a garden no matter where we have moved to. Another thing was I received an OM necklace when I was first deciding on spiritual pathways to grow into and the person who gave it to me said it had healing powers. It did. I got over a cold over night. One time my dad had heart surgery and I sent it to him to wear. He called and said it must have healing powers and sent it to his friend who was in the hospital after it helped his healing and recovery faster. That guy said it healed him faster. Then it got sent back to my mom and she said the same thing. Last year I got it back and now gave it to my sister who said she was having a blood pressure problem. I believe the tradition is spreading the power of belief.

  25. Laurie, love your pendants and their symbolism. I don’t know if I can say this is a tradition, but often on our summer vacations and other travels, my boys and I collect stones. We have baskets full of stones from all over America. I hadn’t thought about it, but maybe this summer, we’ll see if we can collect at least one stone on our trip over to Europe, perhaps in the form of a pendant. Unfortunately, we won’t be visiting Scotland. 🙂 Karen

    • Karen – You most certainly can call the collection of stones from your various adventures a tradition! If you guys can’t find stones already made into pendants, but you can find small, flat stones — all it takes is a “diamond” drill bit to create a whole large enough for leather cord to fit through. I’m definitely going to want to see a post on your blog for whatever your end result is 🙂

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