"At 13 my most sustaining relations were not in the human world. I collected stones - red, green, gray, rust, white speckled with black, black streaked with silver - and kept them in my pockets, their hard surfaces warming slowly to my body heat. . . . Wandered in the hills thick with moss, fern, liverwort, bramble, tree. Only here did I have a sense of body. Those stones warm in my pockets, I knew them to be the steadiest, only untouched parts of myself" (145).
If Eli Clare were to join us on Serendip, he might choose to represent himself with the username CollectedStones and an icon of stones to match this name. The imagery of stones brings us back to a time where Eli was young and learning to connect how to with himself. The stones he held in his pockets grounded him in times of stress, in times of need. He describes the stones as parts of himself, that they gave him a sense of body. Now, this body is fully his after years of acceptance and growth.
In Exile and Pride, Clare also writes "not about the stones, but the body that warmed them, the heat itself" (145). As described by Clare, the heat itself represents a major challenge he faced growing up: his abusive upbringing. The phrase "sticks and stones" stands out to me here, as Clare has dealt with more than his fair share of physical and emotional blows throughout life. However, his spirit is far from broken - he shares his experiences with others and through his words encourages us to grow and learn and reflect on our own lives.
"I turn my pockets and my heart inside out, set the stones - quartz, obsidian, shale, agate, scoria, granite - alone the scoured top of the wall I once lived behind, the wall I still use for refuge. . . . I lean my body into the big, unbreakable expanse, tracing which stones need to melt, which will crack wide, geode to crystal, and which are content just as they are" (156).
The stones, the things that gave Clare a sense of self, are heated by the struggles he has faced. Although Clare has grown well past who he was when he was thirteen years old, he still relates back to his youth and acknowledges how much his past has shaped him. Despite the twenty year difference between his memory and his current self, Clare CollectedStones represents the parts of himself that he chooses to identify with, the parts of himself that "are content just as they are", the parts of himself that are most Eli Clare, heat and all.