Welcome to Balanced Rocks: Pictures and Stories

Beginning March 16,2010, I began a journey of balancing rocks. I hold to the practice of setting to balance at least five sculptures a day, sometimes, many more. Of these I take lots of pictures and videos. While conducting this adventure, I have been introduced to an incredible unfolding story. Additionally, I discovered this phenomenon is manifesting worldwide. As I post pictures and stories, I found many others similarly engaged and sharing their works. Additionally, as folks come upon me performing my work, many want to find out how this is done and try themselves. This blog shares this work in both pictures and stories. Enjoy


A seeming impossibility becomes possible

Rock Balancing: The Beginning

On a fine summer day, sometime in August, 2009, I was visiting family in Toronto. Like most folks spending summer in a large city, we used up as much time as we could finding outdoor events that would cool us. One afternoon, we headed to the Beaches section of East Toronto. After spending some time playing in a large sandbox in the shade with my grandkids and some of their newfound companions, we headed to the Boardwalk that extends from Balmy Beach to Kew Gardens. Ella accompanied me, Liam took off with his mom, Natalie. They ventured down the boardwalk, Ella and I headed onto the sand toward the water’s edge. Halfway there we encountered what looked like a small size Stonehenge.

About a dozen sculptures were gathered together in a rough circle. Each was a stack of two or three rocks balanced one on another. The tallest one was slightly taller than Ella, who was small average height for a five year older. All were in the neighborhood of three feet and four feet tall. What immediately jumped out was the precarious nature of the balancing. Most points of contact were miraculously slight. Most seemed to be standing on a point. Two more folks were witnessing this amazing display. We imagined that there must be small metal rods embedded at the point of contact, or else some kind of glue was used. Each of us peered from close low angles to detect what could account for this mystical display. Ella, not being so cautious, toppled one structure over. Luckily, it did not land on her.

I hurried over and picked up the fallen rock. I saw no evidence of a rod or glue. It indeed had been balanced on its pedestal. I lifted it up and tried to place it back where I reckoned it had been balanced. I cautioned Ella, to be careful and not upset any more sculptures and went about the task of finding balance. I was not successful and struggled immensely but did not find the magic spot where stability could be achieved. After a lengthy effort, an attractive Asian woman about my age approached and gently nudged me aside offering to demonstrate her work. She pointed to the spot she would set the stone upon. She called it by a foreign name. To me it looked like a slight dimple.

Placing the small end of the upper rock into that hollow, she deftly and quickly moved it around, slightly twisting and cajoling it into position. The sight of this slender woman with longish graying hair performing an intricate dance with a rock slightly larger than her head emanated calmness. It seemed only the ends of her fingers were used to achieve these small movements. Apparently, equilibrium was close. Shortly she was done and withdrew her palms which naturally assumed an open prayer posture. The rock I had grappled with was majestically resting in its previous stable state. She next went over and reset two other structures, I had not noticed were also amiss. I just took them to be part of the rubble strewn about the beach. Now all the display was standing and providing a small sense of order in our chaotic world.

I never got this woman’s name, but heard her story. She had set this display up for the purpose of taking pictures, one of which she hoped to use for a cover of a book she was publishing. Unfortunately not getting her name makes it difficult to find her book. But I carried away with me the sight of her presentation and the incredible feeling I had witnessed an amazing ethereal event. I also felt an urge to explore this practice.

Rock in the Snow

Rock in the Snow
January in Toronto

Monday, February 28, 2011

A big one balanced on a small one.

I became intrigued by the idea of balancing a smaller rock then setting a larger one balanced atop it. Looking at it I feel the sculpture is showing the impossible. It is not. The laws of Gravity and Friction have been obeyed.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

These are among my first attempts at balancing. Here I was looking for rocks. I could balance on their points. This pair set atop a stone wall bordering the chasm to Fall Creek alongside Stewart Ave. Bridge in Ithaca, NY

Saturday, April 25, 2009

How about them cars?

In the debate about carbon emissions, villains are found abundantly. We are certainly making a lot of fires. Studies have shown that our food travels substantial distances to reach our tables. Most of the motive force is provided by burning fossil fuels. Some areas have even cracked down on open wood and brush fires. Even open cooking fires are brandished as sources of great carbon emissions. Animal flatulence and belching are also held as examples of enormous sources of greenhouse gases on the loose. Then there are the great continuous fires used to produce our need for abundant electric energy. I suspect these arguments are perhaps screening the real culprit--automobiles.
In order to get an example of the scope of this fire, I came up with some calculations to try and find the magnitude of inferno we produce that enables us to move around at will. I did not use real scientific research to arrive at my figures but used a reasonable estimate to suppose that at any given moment there are likely two hundred million personal motor vehicles on highways worldwide traveling at cruising speed. I also assigned the average number of cylinders at work to be six per vehicle. At this rate, we have one point two billion cylinders laboring all the time. What would this fire look like?
To get the picture, I used these estimates to arrive at the enormity of fuel air explosion that was continually going off. Assuming that all these vehicles are going at cruising speed, I deduced they averaged around three thousand revolutions per minute. Dividing by sixty we arrive at fifty per second. In normal four stroke engines, a power stroke is sparked every other turn. So each cylinder produces twenty five explosions per second. By my estimate of cars cruising, we have thirty billion ignitions per second of fuel air mixture. That would seem an enormous conflagration were it even matches being struck. I have a notion that the fire in an automobile cylinder is a tad larger that a firestick.
Now, I will try to construct a picture of what it would look like were the fuel expended in one second to go off in one place in one huge fireball. A cylinder on a large bore engine displaces forty five cubic inches, a small engine roughly thirty six. A good mean is forty cubic inches. Using this figure, results that in one second our car engines inhale one point two trillion cubic inches of air fuel mixture. This figure yields six hundred and ninety five million cubic feet. Roughly this could be contained in a box with nine hundred foot sides. That describes a huge piston. I cannot fathom what a detonation of this order would look like. But, it is not too difficult to extrapolate that a blast on this order occurring every second could likely drive our planet into a new orbit.


Credible Threats

I awoke this morning with a phrase ringing through my mind. That phrase was “credible threat.” As my day proceeded I incorporated this phrase into my thinking. First, I wondered about squandering of resources and energy combating fears that posed no real peril, but could likely be termed incredible threats. Then I wondered what is the most sure threat I can imagine. In my memory, it seems highly likely that random events continually occur that present clear and immediate danger. These strikes seem to come without warning and pay no heed to time or space. Large events that sprang to mind included assassinations of JFK, RFK, MLK and countless others, both within and without our borders. Next I pondered the random mass murders that seemed to occasionally pop up on campuses of our educational institutions. My earliest memory was the University of Texas Tower shootings conducted by Charles Joseph Whitman on August 1, 1966, concluding with his own shooting death at the hands of the Austin Police.
Almost in a regular way since, we have been visited by other outbreaks of random violence directed at our schools. Sometimes these have been at the hands of an individual, at others part of a conspiracy of a few. More than once we have witnessed violence perpetrated by organized hired hands of the state. I think of the Kent State massacres conducted by the Ohio National Guard and other violent intrusions of campuses by police and organized militia and not only within our borders. In 2004, Russian security forces stormed a school in Beslan where over one thousand hostages were being held. This military type intervention resulted in over 385 deaths. It is difficult to tell which is the most believable danger, the random outbursts or the reactions to them. In any event, anyone in attendance could perceive a realistic peril in the form of bullets whizzing by.
These outbreaks have spread out into other segments of our society. None of our institutions or establishments seem safe from this scourge. We have observed outrageous actions popping up during proceedings held both publicly and privately. Large scale attacks have occurred at business, cultural, religious, and sporting events. Assaults using military type ordnance have been visited upon even small family celebrations. Often responses to these acts of violence resemble commando operations and lead to further carnage and bloodshed. As a result society as a whole is exhibiting behaviors and symptoms that if observed in individuals would lead to a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Individuals may become infected with PTSD after either experiencing or witnessing an event that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury to self or others. Other criteria for this disorder are recurrent and persistent recollections of the disturbing event. Society may be inflicting itself with a type of this malady by virtue of bombarding the public with repeated graphic scenes of these traumatic actions by the media. In my memory, I can see both the moment that a sniper’s bullet struck John Kennedy‘s neck and the grimace on the face of his alleged shooter, Lee Harvey Oswald as Jack Ruby shot him in the stomach. These scenes whirl through my mind along with countless others of conflicts stretching from then till now. Prints detailing all these graphic scenes of violent death would take volumes. I am certain there are many folks in this world who have no trouble recalling the vivid image of a plane slicing through the World Trade Center. And this is only one of the images being stored in collective psyche.
If indeed we are inflicting ourselves with psychological distress due to overexposure to internal or external cues that resemble an aspect of traumatic events, then we can expect our reactions to be similarly disordered. Even innocent events can take on the appearance of credible threats. This in turn evokes responses that are overwhelming and inappropriately threatening. We are showing a marked pattern of reaction to many events as if they were genuine terrorization.
This makes responses overwhelming displays of authentic threats. Examples are police shootings of unarmed suspects, the overpowered raid on Mount Carmel Compound in Waco, Texas and even the large military operation to catch a few guys hunkered down in caves in Hindukush. I suppose, if I was a tribal person living in that area, I would feel my skies patrolled by Predator drones a credible threat. It can be easy to see this leading to an ever increasing cycle of violence. And in this scenario, it makes sense, a villager would take sides with whatever could offer security, even if this means an increase in brutal action. Where is the solution to this maddening state of affairs?
Perhaps, we have to look in diverse places for an answer. Since any reaction seems guaranteed to continue the cycle, a pattern of inaction may be called for. This brings to mind Scriptural remedies that suggest evil will fall of its own accord. Many traditions teach the value of sitting still midst the storm as a sure way to ride it out. Seafarers know that panic reactions can only lead to disaster. Accordingly, brushfire fighters learn the value of letting fire consume itself, meanwhile, lighting backfires to remove fuel. Even the Beatles suggested the answer in their popular tune, Let it be, “ and in my hour of darkness, she is standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom, ‘Let it be, Let it be. ‘”
Since, this solution suggests we act contrary to our psychological state and adverse to popular reaction, what is needed is Faith support. I envision a body of folks who hold one another up in Love and Peace, lest we stumble into reaction. In this way we can be witness with one another that indeed, Wonders and Miracles will arrive in the nick of time.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

What this inauguration means to me

By definition, inauguration means commencing a new operation or practice. In its procession to power, this administration rallied around two key concepts--Hope and Change. Too long, our country has been hostage to fear, greed, and criticism. Throughout history, these formidable Horsemen have rendered mighty empires to shriveled semblances of their former selves. Hope is: the American Spirit can be wrested from these daunting foes. Change is the process that will bring about this freedom.To begin this governance by looking backward and finding place to lay blame for our current state of affairs would find us still trampled by the hooves of these Beasts. Change dictates that we proceed along a new avenue. That way is marked by hope that we rekindle values that brought America to prominence as the desirable model for Democracy. America achieved greatness when she wielded considerable ability to sacrifice, perform hard work and apply herself persistently to troubles besetting her close to home. Choosing this presidency signals to me that Americans are ready to embrace again the values and ethics that made us a powerful example to the world. I do not regard President Obama as radiant savior. Instead, I deem our choosing him as leader, a gesture that faith exists in our political system. This inauguration signifies there is hope we can draw together and overcome the forces that have insidiously grabbed hold of our spirit and being. My belief is that when we draw together to solve the troubles inflicting our neighborhoods, towns, cities, districts, states, we will go forward to a nation the world can look upon as a guide to climbing out of the hole we have dug ourselves into. As certainly as Hope can provide the beacon, her sister virtues can bring about a new approach. Faith can supplant fear; Charity can overcome greed. These three virtues are cornerstone to worldwide religious thought and spiritual practice. My hope is that this administration can bear witness to ushering in of a renewed Spirit restoring our great nation to being beacon to the world.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Now for a brief interuption

Sorry for the interuption folks.
I am working on a story that will be posted as a Water Story. This one is fiction. So I do not get to dig it out of the recesses of my memory and simply transcribe it. This one takes some inventing as I draw it up from another part of my brain that uses other than memory circuits. This process involves sitting and reflecting time, then putting musings into words. After it settles a bit I go backwards and check how it is flowing with the tale I want to tell. So far, I have got two days into it. Not a lot of finished work has come out. But, I find it necessary to break off at times to let the froth cook and see what emerges. In the meantime, feel free to browse through some of the backpages, that are posted. When, this current project looks like it is finished, it will appear here. Or, I may just keep posting updates like this.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Shark Tale

Tales of sharks were common around West Coast Florida. Sighting were rare. Most stories came from fisherman who found their prize sport fish attacked and half eaten before landed it. By the damage inflicted it was obviously a shark attack. There had been no local stories of sharks attacking humans. There were always plenty of shark teeth to be found on local beaches. It seemed every beachcomber had an extensive collection. For all the talk and lore, I had never seen one landed.
One day my brother Karl and I accompanied Drew back to his house, a few houses up the bay. We cut across neighbors front yards. About half way there as we crossed the Graham’s property, we spotted a sizeable fish in the water. We walked out on a nearby dock to get a better look. It was a shark. It was still and obviously dead. It had a three deep wounds on its side no doubt inflicted by a boat propeller. Each gash cut down to internal organs. We decided to haul our find out of the water. We secured a piece of rope and waded out to the large carcass. Very warily, we attached the line to its tail and pulled it to shore. We asked Mr. Graham if we could haul it up a limb so we could get a picture. He agreed and helped us hoist it tail end up to a large horizontal oak branch.
Next we got a camera and took several pictures of us three boys surrounding our catch. We were careful to turn the wounded side away so that anyone looking at the picture might glean we were rugged fishermen. Later Mr. Graham provided a copy of our picture to the Sarasota Herald Tribune and Journal. The next day’s issue showed our prize fish in the sporting section. All three of us were even mentioned by name. We felt proud and much bigger than our size. We tempered our swimming in those waters a bit and kept our activities to boating. Soon we got a chance to go out. About a week later Mr. Graham called and demanded we haul our shark away from his property. It was raising quite a stink. We got hold of a boat, rowed over, cut down our shark and towed him out to the middle of the harbor. There we offered a a small ceremony to this beast as he drifted down into the depths after we cut him loose.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Haven’t Learned a Thing

By the time I was twelve I had become quite proficient at swimming. I not only swam in the warm waters of Florida’s bays, but had gotten over my aversion to coolness of swimming pools. I could dive in and swim many lengths of the pool without a rest. Breathing, stroking, and pacing were becoming second nature. I felt quite at home in water as long as it was temperate. I had yet to venture north of the Florida border and taste cold northern waters Some of the fresh water springs in Northern Florida were too cold for my liking. I seemed to becoming a reptilian creature. Unfortunately my brain functions were slightly on that level also.
In the summer of my twelfth year, I attended a month long summer camp. The attendance fees were bartered by my dad in exchange for a large wooden canoe. We were put up in cabins with boys of the same age. My cabin held ten twelve year old lads and our counselor. The canoe my dad provided was large enough to hold the whole cabin load of us along with our counselor. It became apparent to us that our counselor had a slight fear of water. He always acted nervous out in the canoe. We never saw him swim and maybe he could not. Feeling our full measure of adolescent meanness, we devised a prank for him. We figured that on one of our trips out into middle lake, we would in mass abandon canoe and leave our counselor to fend for himself getting back to shore. We all figured we could make it back swimming. One day we got our chance.
We got out in the middle and on a pre arranged signal, all of us jumped out. We swam away in glee as our counselor was yelling at us to return. . We proceeded back to our docking area. About halfway there, I noticed by full length jeans were becoming waterlogged. The heavier they got the more arduous swimming became. I began worrying that I might become exhausted. Before I got completely worn out, I remembered something from water safety class about removing your clothing. Apparently I had dismissed the lesson about not going in water in your street clothes. I began peeling my pants down my legs. I only got them as far as knotted up around my ankles. There they acted like small weights.
Without use of my legs, II was being dragged down. At a few feet depth, I hit bottom and had enough spring to propel my self back to the surface. When I broke surface, I took a hug gulp of air. As I descended again I kicked furiously to free my legs. After a couple attempts one leg got free from its ankle restraint. Using my freed leg I could kick my way to the surface. After another huge gulp of air , I descended again and freed my other leg. Having both legs free, I could now resume my swim to shore towing my pants with good lifesaving water rescue technique.
I changed course and instead of heading to our dock, I headed to the nearest one--the dock of the neighboring Girl Scout camp. I noticed no one around there and realized I would be coming ashore in my under shorts. Rather quickly I hit their beach, looked round and saw the coast was clear. Gathering my pants in a bundle, I stealthily ran across their compound through the woods to our cabin. That night our cabin was restricted and lectured at great length concerning our stupid mean spirited behaviors. We lost canoe and water privileges for the remainder of summer. We all felt cheated by the consequences of our actions. It was only many years later did I come to and understanding concerning the narrow escape with possible drowning I had encountered.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Oh Yah, I can Swim

By the time I was I third grade I found waters that were not to chilly to jump into. Although the Gulf still seemed cold, waters in Osprey bay and its surrounding creeks, estuaries, and bayous were luxuriously warm. Not only that but the bottoms were soft mushy mud that felt good to walk on. Mud flats held no grassy sections that could hide crabs, fishes and other denizens that might devour small boys. Also, even at the end of the dock facing the shore, waters were not over our heads. Here we could jump in and pretend to swim. The whole summer that year, I learned how to paddle forward as long as my feet could occasionally touch bottom long enough to catch breath and rest. Perhaps for a few strokes, I could even be swimming.
With the advent of fall, we stopped going in the water. Because of the amount of time I had spent in the water including many short periods when I had my feet off the bottom and my posture almost approaching a float position, I considered myself an accomplished swimmer. I attended a short swim lesson session that taught us how to float and hold our breath under water. I could hardly wait until the next summer when I would join the kids who jumped off the dock on the deep side facing out of the harbor and swim under the dock to the swallow side where we could stand on the bottom.
The next spring my first chance for swimming came with the first warm weather. I was enrolled in Cub Scouts and once a week went to our Den Mother, Mrs. Langer’s house after school to engage in scouting activities. She had a pool and on the first hot day we all changed into trunks and gathered round the pool. Each boy was polled about his ability to swim. When asked, remembering the strong fluttering I had done the previous year, I answered. “Yah, I can swim.” Mrs. Langer accepted my answer and let me join the boys in the deep end. The depth where I jumped in was eight feet and it did not have a soft muddy bottom. I found the water not so buoyant and was not able to stay up in the float position. I let myself sink to the bottom, went into a crouch and sprang my legs open propelling me to the surface. There I captured a big gulp of air, fell back into the deep and sank back to the bottom. Hitting it , I again went into a crouch and sprang to the surface again. I repeated this for quite a while not making any headway, but not getting exhausted either. I was too embarrassed to scream for help and just kept bobbing up and down.
Finally, one of the scout leaders sensed I was perhaps in trouble and asked me “ as I shot above the surface, “Do you need help getting to the side.?” As I took in a big gulp, I nodded affirmative and went back down. On my next ascent, I was grabbed by strong hands and lifted out of the pool. I was grateful for the help but was ashamed to admit, how much I needed it. I just acted like I had been practicing a new water acrobat routine. Inside, I was determined to give swimming pools a rest and confine my swimming activates to the safety of Osprey town dock with its soft muddy bottom where I could stand with my head out of the water.


About Me, Part One

My photo
Rock Balancing: The Beginning. What began as a journal of my travels took a hiatus when I began to settle in Ithaca NY. In the meantime, I took up the practice of setting rocks to balance. I returned to my blog to begin recording this story

Part, The second

On Easter Sunday Morning, 2008, I made a decision to settle in the Ithaca New York area. At the same time, I decided to continue to post my blog, However, the stories now will come from the archive stored internally. These will be the stories I gathered while on previous journeys and never entrusted to paper. The date of each posting will not reflect the date of the story being related but will mark the date that narrative got inscribed.

Carry wood

Carry wood
33 years later

Part: The third

I took a brief hiatus from my daily blog writing. I did not know the direction it would take. part of me thought I would abandon it. It turns out I missed it. The old title "On the Road Again' is no longer apt. It appears I am settling. The travel stories will age to a point, when I will probably resusitiate them and do something with them. I dusted off some old stories and begin this new series.
Thr first is one was written two years ago. I edited it and begin again a series that is more apropos to someone settling in upper New York State. They are meant to warm, amuse, educate and sometimes inflame.