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, August 11, 2008

Creating on the beach. March 1975: Grassy Key, FL

While staying on Grassy Key with a lot of folks who had limited resources, finding something to do with idle time posed a problem. Much of our energy was devoted to obtaining food. But even that left plenty of space to engage in other occupations. It seemed as a community we developed a bent to fashion trinkets for adornment and gift giving. Even our destitute state produced an aura of shared wealth. Crafts that flourished included macramé, sketching, painting, bead stringing, and carving. Beachcombing provided materials and inspiration. Creative spirit led us to find ways to fashion tools and small items for our fledgling industry.
Not having many material distractions kept our work simple yet provided clear artistic learning adventures. In my scant possessions was Swiss Army type knife. This model had many blades and tools in one device. Mine included two knife blades, saw blade, awl, and corkscrew. These were enough to set me in the carving business. Coconuts provided material. My days usually began with gathering a coconut, using the awl to punch out the eyes and drain the milk. This I would share with anyone nearby. Next came out the saw blade and I neatly sawed the nut case into equal hemispheres. My curved knife blade was used to scoop out meat and dice it up. After serving it for breakfast, I had two nice bowl shapes to begin carving.
Working these bowls provided my first lesson in artistry. That was, while producing, it proved best to separate the work from thoughts of its outcome. By this I mean, focusing on the work at hand rather than what will become of it once it is finished. It was easy to distract myself with thoughts of who I would present my trinket to after it was finished. I quickly found that such distractions often interfered with getting artwork done. Also I found it a waste of mental energy since by the time I was finished the result was usually very different than I pondered. My task became a practice of returning drifting focus to the work at hand. This valuable lesson quickly became adaptable to most other tasks.
Though I had bowl shaped blanks, bowls were not the product. Instead I fashioned a way to use leather strips to hinge the two hemispheres back together. Then using a small hand made wooden bead and more leather strips I found a way to make a clasp. Then another piece of leather was used ot fashion a strap. What emerged was a small hard sided handbag. Its size was handy for folks who had not much to carry anyway. Several of these purses made their way into our community. Another product that sprung from local materials were walking sticks and canes. Mangrove roots provided strong straight wood for this project. The work consisted of scraping off the bark, rounding the hand hold end and adding carving. My first stick showed the words, “New Jerusalem.” Other sticks received different messages and symbols. Several of these items also made their way into the community.
Yesterday’s project ot editing my written work returned me to the lessons learned of maintaining focus on the task at hand, divorcing thought about where this task will end up. The difficulty being in this case, the editing I am working on is for the purpose of producing a clean written copy for presenting to Neal. My struggle is to divorce my thoughts of how I think how he will receive it and his reactions and instead stick with the task at hand.


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Blog Archive

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.