Cairns—we saw them aplenty when we climbed Ben Nevis. We noticed quite a few in Nova Scotia. We spotted them as trail markers in John Muir woods, on Palomar Mountain near the observatory, and now in the shallows of the Boise river—in this case, parents built them symbolically, one cairn each for a family of seven.
Used by people around the globe, cairns — human-made stack of stones — serve many different purposes:
Utilitarian: to mark a path, territory, or specific site
Spiritual: inviting passersby to stop and reflect
Ceremonial: when placed within a circle of enclosing stones
Memorial: when friends and family members voice a fond remembrance of a loved one while adding adding a stone
Symbolic: the uses are endless including love, prayer, and artistic expression
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.
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.”