Stone Days

Text by Erin Silver

Stone days is a diary of days. All kinds of days: good days, bad days, on days, off days, slow days, stone days. – Barbara Todd

There you will see tongues in trees / Books in brooks / And sermons in stones. – William Shakespeare

We are accustomed to calendars that demarcate our experiences by days, weeks, and years. We cross days off as though we are relieved to escape them and to only move forward. However, some of us keep diaries, record, recover, and revive our days. Our days become our objects, malleable to our unique resignifications, revelatory in their results.

Not all diaries require pen and paper, as Barbara Todd’s Stone Days (2007) illustrates. In this multimedia work, Todd selected texts—her own, as well as snippets of speeches, poetry, and prose borrowed from others—to inspire arrangements of stones gathered from her annual August sojourn at her grandparents’ Lake Huron cottage. She then photographed, photoshopped, and printed a year’s worth of consecutive stone configurations on vellum. Todd explains, “The layering of these translucent images came to constitute the cumulative quality of presence, of memory and of dissolving into past days.”

Vellum is but one medium through which Todd’s meticulous documentation manifests itself: her stone/texts can be “leafed through,” albeit virtually, in cyberspace, where access to Todd’s days is but a mouse click away. Her stone/texts can also be wrapped around oneself in the form of the quilts made by Todd that carry in their stitching, and in the placement of “soft” stones, the intricacies of Todd’s episodic narrative.

We cannot predict the outcome of all of our days, nor can we always detect their subtle differences. Diaries can help us to map out our pasts and, in turn, intuit our possible futures. Like the Chinese game of Go, Todd’s stone diaries are built from the ground up and search for a balance between presence and absence, action and inaction, strength and weakness. Even the best of Go players can expect to lose half of their matches, and Todd’s stone days speak to the wins and losses of human existence.

“Take the eggs that talk to you, not the ones that are impressive on the surface.” Todd’s text on Valentine’s Day—a day given to lovers to worship both flaw and flawlessness, with the understanding that one is required to appreciate the other. A telling entry, then, one that foregrounds Todd’s Stone Days as an unconditional ode to one year in a life lived.