I am hiking in an ancient river bed and notice an odd shaped rock. Barely visible, camouflaged by a blending of earth tones, the specimen invites me to stoop down and discover. I reach to dislodge the stone half-buried in the soil and pick up a limb cast, a solid agate in amber hues. To the uninitiated, the rock I hold might seem rather uninteresting, but I find this piece of cryptocrystalline quartz entices my childlike curiosity.
A “limb cast”, local name for a type of agate, is nature’s lost wax jewelry. After a volcanic eruption buried a tree hundreds of thousands of years ago, the organic matter dissolved, leaving a cavity. A limb left it’s imprint in surrounding earth, similar to the jeweler’s carved wax mold. Over millennia, silica minerals leached into the space and crystallized into the specimen now in my hand—an agate within a circle of rough bark impressions.
Holding the stone to the light, sun rays illuminate the interior. It is like someone flipped a switch transforming the rock into a translucent amber-colored night light. I never cease to be amazed by nature’s ingenuity in creating beauty. I hold a piece of mother earth that speaks through light and texture, offering a glimpse into creation through destruction.
On this Losar, the Tibetan Lunar New Year’s Day, the amber stone sits on my desk and speaks to me about letting go and finding a renewed expression of beauty. In the Hindu tradition, Shiva is the destroyer, the one who facilitates transformation. In the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition, wrathful archetypes serve a similar purpose. May we all make a new mold through destroying old dysfunctional forms. May we create light in the liberated space for the benefit of all beings. And may a few impressions of the old remain, to remind us of this ancient wisdom.