It is hot where she stands. She is old and her body feels weak. She looks out, the creases on her face determined. A dry wind ruffles through her robes. They are black and the material is heavy. The sun beats her body beneath them…a bead of sweat threatens to drip into her eye.

The stop is brief. Many of the sisters…decide to stay in the air-conditioned comfort of the bus…

Sister Clara takes her time, wandering off into the landscape…

Back at the bus, the sisters are looking at the place in the distance where Clara slipped from view….several of them trudge out to see that she’s okay. They see Sister Clara…crouched over and tapping against a half buried stone.

Sister Clara turns…to the stone, dropping to her knees and working the soil to loosen its grip. She heaves against the stone…and heaves another time. She pushes and pulls again…draws in a breath and holds it as she pulls back on the stone with all her strength. It rises reluctantly, dramatically…

Sister Clara rolls the stone from her legs and stands up on her own…

Clara…settles her eyes squarely on the stone.  It lies near the broken earth that held it for – centuries maybe, she thinks. Centuries maybe, she thinks again. Whole centuries.  Then she reaches down…grasps the stone in her hands and turns it over.

(One of) the sisters expresses the concern of all those on board about the possibility that Sister Clara might be hurt somehow – bitten by a snake even. So why, exactly, does she do it, the sister asks. Why turn a stone at each stop.

Sister Clara looks back to the gathering of troubled faces and…gives them an answer, “I turn a stone so that the place is different because I have been there.” She says again, louder, “I turn a stone…so that the place is different…because I have been there.”

– excerpted from Turning Stones: My Days and Nights with Children At Risk, by Marc Parent

Painter at Work, Paul Cezanne

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