I remember the time when my friend Matthew became deeply interested in Suiseki. That was when I learned about them.
Suiseki is the Japanese art of stone appreciation, although it originated in China and was introduced to Japan about 1,500 years ago. I went looking for a good explanation of it, especially as my knowledge of the art of Suiseki is a bit thin and mostly comes from Matthew, who was no authority on it, just a person with preternatural aesthetic gifts who could understand such a thing with absolute alacrity.
Basically Suiseki is about finding natural stones that look like other things- sometimes landscapes, like mountains or islands or canyons, and sometimes objects, like animals, or houses, or people, or bridges. Then it's about taking these stones and presenting them, usually by fitting the stones perfectly into an elegant and perfectly fit base. Most of these bases that I've seen are wood, like wood stands.
Suiseki are also known as scholar stones. I think that appellation is from the Chinese branch, although either way my impression is that it suggests the contemplative nature of these stones. Apparently in Japan some of the most prized Suiseki can be incredibly valuable.
Once when I was canoeing down the Current River with Matthew I remember combing the rocky river valley with him searching for Suiseki. I don't recall ever finding a good one.
Curiously though, in my own local Shadow Creek, which is not very rocky, there is a perfectly brilliant Suiseki sitting in the middle of the creek. It looks like a mountain.
I call it:
"The Matthew Suiseke" in honor of my friend.
Here is a picture of it. Traditionally it is not permitted to alter the stone, and in my picture I have kept to that, although I have blacked out the background as I found it distracted from the beauty and scale of the Suiseki stone: