A Company of Stone: John Rixley Moore
A physical war that ended when released from his duty as a Special Forces soldier but an emotional one that still lingers on until this day. As John Rixley Moore completes one entire journey and recounts his struggles, fights, emotional strain and physical abuse he took at the hand of the Viet Cong, working with the Nungs and experiencing life under more than strenuous conditions his life as he knew it before will never be the same. Searching for answers and wondering where to go and how to release the tension, anger and frustrations that accompany him all the time, he decided to remain home for a while and then venture out on his own. Joining a group of archeologists he became immersed in the dig but not for long. Leaving he decided to walk finding himself sleeping out in the open air, the fields, raining pelting down on him, snow and ice often causing him to seek shelter and then miraculously finding his way to a monastery and seeking calm.
Entering the monastery he is directed a small room and told he can remain as long as he likes but must follow the rules and obey the times of complete silence. Company of Stone focuses on his journey, his fight with nature, his hope to find a place for himself, but not before remembering the demons that would haunt him, bonding with two special Monks, their time together and learning to live in peace. The vivid descriptions of the landscape take you inside not only the monastery but climbing the hills, the mountains and meeting Wilf, Bertrand and the other monks and bonding with them each in a different way. Enjoying working in the kitchen, the tasks he is asked to perform, going along with them on their long treks and hoping to be of some use to them in their work, John, settles into a rhythm that suits him but for how long? His time at St. Edmund’s is where he begins to reassess his life and the descriptions are so graphic and perfectly illustrated using metaphors, descriptive adjectives that help paint a picture that you can see if you close your eyes.
Hostage of Paradox sets the stage for this book as the author describes his army life, his job as a special forces leader and soldier, the violence, the corruption and how he and his men were practically led to slaughter when sent on missions that would more than endanger their lives. Real life experiences that he shares and true grit emotions that come through in every paragraph.
Company of Stone is the story of how John decided to deal with life after the war and how choosing a direction. Living in a monastery was just a prelude to leaving and drilling for gold thousands of feet below the topsoil of the earth.
John realizes that his stay at the monastery is over and he needs to choose another direction. But, within this story and every place or person he encounters he still seems to be fighting his own inner wars and has yet to really overcome what he left in Vietnam. Learning how to communicate with many of the different monks, understanding their perspective on religion, life and just learning more about them enriched him. Each monk had his down special physical description and different ways of getting their day and jobs done. One was blind; another spoke to him quite bluntly and frankly while others quieter. The world seemed beautiful, the landscape described as if coming out of a storybook and his longing to be home but he never gets there. Instead we meet him in Troglodyte where he works in a gold mine digging for gold. This too is a dangerous job and the way it’s described some of the digs, the trips down below the surface of the earth to find the gold seemed almost as dangerous as one of his missions while in the army. No experience, not trained to use the equipment some how his theatrics and way he presented himself was appreciated. The work was dangerous, the men he worked with did not speak his language and he hated being as many would say the new kid on the block. Throughout the second half of the novel we get an inside look from above and below the surface of the earth into the mining industry, how to mine for gold, where they found the gold and the accidents that took many lives.
Some jobs require on the job training and that’s what happened to John as he was thrown into the operation right away and he had to learn fast. Heavy gloves that hid the fact that his hands were shaking and learning how to pull the hose coupling to the drill sockets, he was able to find relief in that they snapped easily into the correct position. But, not every task was easy and at times he needed to protect his hands from freezing and when mistakes happened it could be costly as you read the chapter The Mine you will get first hand knowledge of the gravity of the job and the dangerous as you, the reader, will experience it all with John.
Two men stand out the most during this time Beresina and Claudine the girl who paid them. His description of this woman is quite unique and her dealings with the men double sided at times. But, John suffered greatly with his hands and need medical attention but this did not delay or deter him from having to work and do his fair share. But, something happens and within himself he starts to realize that this is not where he belongs. The saddest incident was the fate of Pierre which will touch readers deeply and helped John realize just how fragile life is when Pierre had to make a choice that no one wants to ever have to make. The skills he managed to learn and the fact that his survival was contingent on these skills and that of others allowed him to learn just how tenuous life is and why we need to cherish every minute. Memories of the war flood through his mind, his past and the end result is he realizes that some of what he went through was surreal, many people that he met he often thinks about and wonders where they are and if they are still alive but in reality and those whose “legacy lies hidden in the ornamental yellow metal that, from ring fingers to spacecrafts, is indelibly, woven into the fabric of human values.”
Beresina was probably the one miner who he connected with the most and Wilf the Monk that left their lasting thoughts and impressions with John. But, as Beresina would say: John: You ain’t, after all, dead yet.” He’s right and you have much more to write about and more experiences to encounter. This is an interesting book filled with John’s thoughts, real life experiences and how he overcame some personal wars that led him to where he is today. Acceptance, life’s struggles, wars, torment and become more than the outer fragile shell of a delicate egg, John forged ahead and teaches us many important lessons in life but most important: to have faith in yourself.
To find out more read Company of Stone and the second titled About the Author. The tower stones within the monastery might be cold, quiet, silent and cannot answer your questions but sometimes The Company of Stones can provide answers just by their presence.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer