For as long as we've lived in this house, I've been in pursuit of a big rock to put in the yard. Not just a regular rock, mind you, but a large, too-heavy-to-lift stone that looks like it was chipped from the top of one of the Sierra Nevadas and would be impossible to move and mow around. I am constantly on the hunt for said rock and have been since even before we owned our own place.

It can't be just any rock, mind you. There are a few requirements: It must be large, it's better if it's not granite, having moss on it is a plus, and it must - how should I say - "speak to me". Other than that, I'm pretty easy. My husband understands and accepts this, much as he understands and accepts many of the weird things about me. He humors me.

Sometimes, when we drive around town, we see other homes with giant rocks as landscaping and I feel pangs of unbelievable jealousy over the rock they have that I do not. These are homes with actual landscaping and not just a postage stamp sized, fenced yard like we have and I'm fully aware of the fact that a big rock in my working-class, urban neighborhood would look completely out of place.

We've been on the lookout for my rock for years and have only a handful of times found worthy candidates. For one reason or another, there's always been a reason why we couldn't collect the rock I selected and bring it home. A couple of times, my rock was on private property and between the options of not getting my rock and not getting arrested, we chose the latter. Once when we were in West Virginia on a weekend trip, I saw the perfect rock by the side of the road in the mountains and insisted we stop the car. We determined that we had neither the space nor the tools to lift it into the trunk and finally, reluctantly, I left it there and went on our way, swearing the whole time that I'd remember this random, remote spot in the mountains and we'd come back for it. We didn't, of course - I don't even remember the road it was on. But if we'd been driving the pickup that weekend, there would be a rock in my yard and we wouldn't be having this discussion now.

I can't quite explain why I've always wanted this and why, no matter where we travel, somewhere in the back of my mind, I'm always scanning the scenery at the side of the road for "my rock". I'd like to be able to give a good reason why this is so important to me: it would make me feel closer to nature, I grew up in the Rockies and it reminds me of my childhood, I love the Frank Lloyd Wright concept of architecture as being a part of the terrain on which it's built, I'm an amateur landscaper... but the truth is, I don't really know why I want the rock. I just do.

Part of it has to do with this poem by W. S. Merwin I read when I was eighteen:

Tergvinder's Stone
W. S. Merwin

One time my friend Tergvinder brought a large round boulder into his living room. He rolled it up the steps with the help of some two-by-fours, and when he got it out into the middle of the room, where some people have coffee tables (though he had never had one there himself) he left it. He said that was where it belonged.

It is really a plain-looking stone. Not as large as Plymouth Rock by a great deal, but then it does not have all the claims of a big shaky promotion campaign to support. That was one of the things Tergvinder said about it. He made no claims at all for it, he said. It was other people who called it Tergvinder's Stone. All he said was that according to him it belonged there.

His dog took to peeing on it, which created a problem (Tergvinder had not moved the carpet before he got the stone to where he said it belonged). Their tomcat took to squirting it too. His wife fell over it quite often at first and it did not help their already strained marriage. Tergvinder said there was nothing to be done about it. It was in the order of things. That was a phrase he seldom employed, and never when he conceived that there was any room left for doubt.

He confided in me that he often woke in the middle of the night, troubled by the ancient, nameless ills of the planet, and got up quietly not to wake his wife, and walked through the house naked, without turning on any lights. He said that at such times he found himself listening, listening, aware of how some shapes in the darkness emitted low sounds like breathing, as they never did by day. He said he had become aware of a hole in the darkness in the middle of the living room, and out of that hole a breathing, a mournful dissatisfied sound of an absence waiting for what belonged to it, for something it had never seen and could not conceive of, but without which it could not rest. It was a sound, Tergvinder said, that touched him with fellow-feeling, and he had undertaken - oh, without saying anything to anybody - to assuage, if he could, that wordless longing that seemed always on the verge of despair. How to do it was another matter, and for months he had circled the problem, night and day, without apparently coming any closer to a solution. Then one day he had seen the stone. It had been there all the time at the bottom of his drive, he said, and he had never really seen it. Never recognized it for what it was. The nearer to the house he had got it, the more certain he had become. The stone had rolled into its present place like a lost loved one falling into arms that has long ached for it.

Tergvinder says that now on nights when he walks through the dark house he comes and stands in the living room doorway and listens to the peace in the middle of the floor. He knows it size, its weight, the touch of it, something of what is thought of it. He knows that it is peace. As he listens, some hint of that peace touched him too. Often, after a while, he steps down into the living room and goes and kneels beside the stone and they converse for house in silence - a silence broken only by the sound of his own breathing.