Finding suiseki is hard. A stone that might have the potential to be good suiseki must be made of good quality material with appropriate weathering, surface textures, colors, and shape. When you are standing by the river, it’s daunting to realize that only a handful of those millions of stones are worth even taking home.
The question is, how do you search? If you try to pick up every stone and examine it closely, you’ll exhaust yourself (and run out of daylight) long before you’ve looked at even a tiny fraction – and you might not find anything. Instead, we scan the stones we see as we walk along, looking for ones that show at least one characteristic that might be promising. What we look for depends on the location.
Black Butte Lake is a place known for its high quality, colorful jaspers – yellows, reds, browns, and beautiful black. The problem is that most of the exposed stones are encrusted in dried, baked-on, algae and dirt, so you can’t see the type or color of material.
In this case Mas scans the stones looking for ones which might have a good shape and then looks at the bottom side. The bottom is protected from the algae and dirt, and is also usually wet. The surface of the stone will be visible and he can see the color and the quality of the stone material.
If the shape is interesting, with no recent breaks or cracks, and the stone has great quality and color, then he is happy to bring it home for further study. He doesn’t hunt for anything specific, like a particular shape or color (e.g. searching for a mountain stone or a red-and-yellow jasper), but just looks at each stone to learn what it has to say. He probably would not find any specific thing he was looking for, and focusing like that would also limit his chance to find and enjoy so many other stones.
It was just an accident, great luck, to find a heart-shaped jasper with a good size and such fantastic quality and color. Mas’ teacher, Mr. Hirotsu, once said that his advice to suiseki enthusiasts was to “Just enjoy” – and Mas and I re-learn that lesson every time we go collecting.