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Late last summer I took several trips with our local suiskei club to collect Northern California stones.  We visited Black Butte Lake, the Trinity and Klamath rivers.  If you haven’t had a chance to visit these locations you should try.

Black Butte Lake stone in multicolor jasper

Black Butte Lake stone in multicolor jasper

I’m curious what many of you think about this stone.  When I first found it I showed it to a few of those on the trip with me and they just looked at it and used those deadly words “that is interesting.”  Of course suiseki, or what I love about it, is that what truly counts is one’s own viewpoint of the beauty inherent in the stone.  I showed it to Mas and with his usual quiet study of the stone he said “it is your kind of stone.”

Mas is a man of quiet intellect but what I enjoy most about him is his contemplative ways and his ability to understand through precise and insightful observations.  Mas was right you know – it was my kind of stone.

The color, texture and feel of this stone when I picked it up and observed it struck me as quite beautiful.  As I looked at the top most peek, I could wonder what might be around that corner going from left to right.  When a stone allows my imagination to begin to work I know for me I have found a stone that must return home.  Is this a classical mountain stone – certainly not – one could even argue it may look more like a rugged cliff stone near the ocean, but for me it is a bit too smooth and shiny for that.  It does remind me though of being high in the sierras in the late evening.

Black Butte Lake is an artificial lake located in Tehama and Glenn Counties, California, USA. The lake was formed from Stony Creek in 1963 upon the completion of Black Butte Dam by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  It is about 180 miles from our home in the Bay Area so a reasonable drive.

A red and yellow jade mountain stone

A red and yellow jade mountain stone

This is a cut stone and let me admit first hand – it isn’t the best example of a mountain stone.  That being said I love the color of this stone. It is as if spring is underway with high mountain colors of flowers in bloom.  The stone drops sharply on the right and even though I often see this in Japanese stones I’m not sure it strikes my eye without a bit of a jarring effect.  Nevertheless, it will stay in our collection for several reasons.  How often do you find a stone of such striking color?  I found it when both KJ and our new baby yellow lab Samson was walking along the lake shore. This was our first trip with Samson and he is such a wonderful yellow lab.  Even though he was barely five months old he was well behaved and just tagged along for the walk.

Both of the diazas were made by Koji Suzuki and the yellow mountain stone was cut by him as well.

Earlier that summer our club had taken a trip to the Trinity and the Klamath rivers.  On our drive up to our camp ground on the Klamath we stopped for lunch on the bank of the Trinity River.  It was a beautiful spot with picnic tables, shade trees, and the cool breeze of the roaring river.  I will post photos of that trip at some point.

After lunch we decided to try our hand at locating a few nice stones along the riverbank.  As I was wandering around turning over stones, I came to a clump of bushes that went right into the water.  I decided to go rummaging around in the bushes and low and behold just lying on the ground was this stone.  Janet has reminded me on several trips that often a stone is just lying there as if waiting for you to finally show up to pick it up.  This was clearly the case with this beautiful stone.  Not a single piece of this stone was underground – it was just as if it was patiently waiting for me to come along to pick it up and admire it.

Trinity River Stone

Trinity River Stone

Many are going to look at this stone and say “well it has been polished!”  Frankly, if I hadn’t been the one to pick it up in this exact state that is exactly what I would have said as well.  Is this a classic suiseki shape – of course not.  Do we love this stone – yes we do!

I ran this stone over to Mas to see what he thought.  He agreed that had he not been there he would have thought this old patina was created through polishing.  Mas thought this was perhaps the best stone our group found that day – at least until that point…  It is a beautiful stone from both sides.  We elected to have this side be the front as it just “felt better.”  Several people who have seen this stone have said that it should be cut to make a nice mountain stone.  To cut this stone would be to take away the very heart and beauty of it.  To think of the years that this stone was in the water being polished by the running water and sand that cascaded across all sides of this stone.  How long did it take to create this smooth and beautiful patina.  Certainly it was in the river for years and years.  What caused it to reach the shoreline and decide to stay rather than being returned the following winter – who knows.  Perhaps had we not been there that day to pick it up it would have returned last winter when the river once again rose and raged.  But on that Saturday we were there at just the right time to see its beauty and to make it a part of our collection.

To be direct this is not a stone we will sell or give away. At some point it will be returned to the trinity as it reminds us that most things in life are never owned but simply on loan.  I hope you think the diaza Koji Suzuki made for this stone allows us to appreciate it in how it is displayed.

Later that afternoon we headed on up to the Klamath river where we stayed less than 100 yards away from the water.  On Sunday, while walking the banks I had decided to run back and pick up a stone that I had sat aside to show Mas to see what he thought of it.  While walking back and before crossing over some 6 foot bushes to where our group was sitting on the river bank while watching small, fresh steelhead running through the water I looked down and saw this stone.



We will need to post some more photos of this stone for you as this bronze color patina is natural and unpolished by human hands.  At first when I saw it I wasn’t quite sure what it was other than a deep copper colored bronze-like stone.  When I picked it up and held it the thing that struck me about this stone was it’s softness – and just by holding it it brought a sense of tranquility.  Often I see or hold stones and its texture and color brings other emotions of almost all of which are not tranquility.  I’m not saying that looking at a nice distant mountain stone doesn’t bring about a sense of peace but this stone exuded a state of tranquility.  Much like when you are quietly walking through a forest where even the sound of your feet somehow never escapes the ground to your ears.  That kind of quietness – that sense of peace.

We debated a long time how to display this stone.  Our first thought was just a simple pillow – I still think this is best – but in the end we wanted to have a diaza made for this stone so we can display it as some future point in a show.  Is this stone perfectly smooth – we think not, but it does give a sense of smoothness in a turbulent world.  My personal work is often extremely stressful, most start-ups are, and the one I’m helping is no exception.  Trying to raise capital, building a product on a limited budget, and trying to meet often conflicting priorities will raise one’s blood pressure. What I do find though when I think my day is spiraling out of control is that I walk away from my computer(s) and I take a few minutes to gaze upon this stone at least for a short moment a sense of tranquility departs from it and envelops my state of mind.

Let me say that many who read this post might wonder if the stress hasn’t perhaps sent me over the ‘edge’ – no pun intended – but I would challenge you that if your stones or suiseki isn’t evoking this kind of visceral reaction are you taking enough time to study your stone to see what it has to offer?

I must admit that before we took up suiseki and tanseki trips, we often saw stones and quickly passed by them. Sometimes with a brief appreciation but often that was only fleeting.  Perhaps age has something to do with the desire to slow down and to take the time to be a bit more observant of one’s surroundings.  I’m not exactly sure but we do know that these stones in our lives recently have caused us to pause and ponder – isn’t that a good thing?