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

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Lighting Matches

I cannot remember the first time I lit a match. It may have been under my Dad’s tutelage. Or he may have offered help and instruction after catching me trying to strike matches on my own. I did have plenty of examples of adults lighting them and may have lifted a few and went off on my own to experiment. Many times I was joined by young companions who were also interested in finding out about matches and fire. There was certainly ample opportunity to obtain a pack and go somewhere to try this test of ordinary magic.
Whatever the circumstances, several properties of matches sprang to the forefront while learning to light them. First, considerable attention had to be given to the amount of pressure applied to the match head as it was dragged down the length of the abrasive striking surface. Insufficient pressure would not allow enough friction heat to be generated to spark the combustion of the sulfurous substance on the match head. Too much pressure might break the body of the match. This would result in a flaming match fragment launching into an uncontrolled spin. When it landed it could easily leave an unwanted burn mark. Or worse it could land in a pile of tinder and ignite a fire in an undesirable place.
Matches came in two styles. One had a shaft made of a small sliver of wood. The other had a shaft made from paper. Wooden matches came in a small box that made a nice container for small items once the matches were used. Paper matches came joined together in two segments that were attached by a small metal staple. Each segment held about ten matches that were separate from each other except at the stapled end where the cuts that separated them did not penetrate. When you needed a match, you pinched it between two fingers and with a sideways pulling motion pulled it apart from the rest of the book held tightly with the other hand.
Paper matches required much more manual dexterity than wooden matches. It took great skill to separate the match from its book without tearing the book apart or separating it from its cover. Without careful attention, separating a match from its pack could result in three detached pieces; the match you separated, other matches still joined by a staple, and the cover with the abrasive striking surface. Once successful at separating a match from its cover, the next part requiring digital acuity involved striking the match. Missteps here could result either in failure to light the match or sometimes burned fingers.

Unlike wooden matches, paper ones did not have a rigid shaft. When striking a wooden match it was possible to hold it with your fingers at the far end of the match head which would burst into flame when struck. Perhaps that was why boxes of wooden matches were often labeled “Safety Matches.” On the other hand paper matches required the placing of one finger directly on or at least very near the head when striking it. Otherwise not enough pressure could be applied to the head to generate the friction necessary to cause combustion. Because of this necessity to place at least one finger near the combusting surface, it required certain quickness in order to remove the finger at the slightest indication that combustion was initiated. Removing it too soon meant that the match did not light; removing it too late often resulted in a burn. Sometimes a small piece of molten sulfur would stick to the finger resulting in a small but serious burn. I do not remember paper matches being labeled “Not Safety Matches,” but, they certainly were not safe.

At first it seemed most of us kids would remove our fingers too soon, resulting in repeated strikes in an attempt to light the match. Sometimes repeated striking resulted in the gradual removing of the sulfurous material rendering the match useless. Often an unlit paper stick would be discarded because it was no longer workable. Many times we would even run out of matches because we could not get the proper striking technique before expending our supply. Most often one good sulfur burn would considerably lighten the touch. For this reason it seemed we preferred wooden matches. If I had my way, they would have been labeled “Kid’s Matches.”


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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.