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A Stone’s Throw: The Enduring Nature of Myth

by Ross Laird

Of the four elements, earth is the most silent. And yet writing and painting found on the Earth’s stones are also our only form of communication with lost ancestors. Like this, its central symbol, Ross Laird’s A Stone’s Throw gives voice to what is usually left unspoken – the embedded stories and myths that form the core of our selves.

A Stone’s Throw immediately immerses the reader in the wild mountains near Laird’s B.C. home, where he is on a quest to find a rock to sculpt in his workshop. His descriptions of nature are both technically accurate and beautifully poetic. But what is most impressive is Laird’s ability to express the intensity of physical images, from his own precarious jumps over icy rocks to the bodily impact of abstract sculpture.

As Laird begins to work the primal rock into a sculpture, he blends ancient quest mythology – Egyptian, Muslim, Hebrew – with his own work and journeys. Though he acknowledges a vast number of scholars, Laird’s story is more tangible than academic – he frees mythic tales from dogmatic constraints by combining them with his own family history, and also his family’s future, in the form of his children. Using metaphors of geological time, Laird shows that what is set in stone is still always mutable. Mythic elements blend into every aspect of our lives because they are what the human race has grown up with, just as his own children will repeat their family tropes because this is their history.

Through his own representation of myth, Laird touches on the danger presented by dogmatists who want to make history static, including such newsworthy figures as Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Laird’s story never becomes simply a metaphor for world politics; he brings the story back to that of his own alcoholic mother and his conflicted efforts to both preserve and forget her memory, without writing a one-sided history. Like a classic quest story, the book winds back to its own beginnings, closing this circle in time, ready to begin the next story. A Stone’s Throw gives life to the stones around which all stories spiral.