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

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Nature of Steam

Under normal atmospheric conditions water is liquid. When temperatures fall to 32 Fahrenheit (F) under normal pressure, water turns to ice -- a solid. Under the same pressure conditions when temperature reaches 212 F, it turns to steam -- a gas. This temperature is referred to as the boiling point. Liquid water on the earth’s surface cannot exist above this temperature. In its gaseous state, steam can continue to absorb more heat. This gives steam properties that can be useful, it also renders steam a danger.
Because of its heat carrying capabilities, steam is used for heating purposes. Under confinement, as steam is heated above its boiling point, its pressure increases. Therefore, steam carrying pipes and radiators must be able to hold great pressures. Whenever these systems fail, disaster looms, usually in the form of an explosion. Because of this danger, steam heating has largely been replaced by hot water and heated air heating systems. Steam is by far the most efficient, but its risk seems not acceptable. Steam under pressure also has another use, as it has an incredible ability to penetrate porous material.
Pressure cookers are an example of steam being used in this manner. Under pressure steam penetrates deep into food, carrying its heat and cooking quickly and efficiently. A safety feature of pressure cookers are built in pressure relief valves. These release excess steam pressure from confinement and into the air. Despite warnings to keep this valve clear, dangerous explosions have occurred when it gets blocked. Kitchens have seen metal cookers turned in shrapnel that has killed the cook. For this reason, many have abandoned pressure cooking using steam pressure.
Another use of steam’s penetrating abilities are found when working with fibrous materials. Wood for example is subjected to steam to help it absorb moisture making it more pliable. Various wooden products use steam to make them bendable. After being held in a bended state and dried, wood retains the bent shape. Common examples of this are found in boats, furniture and curved building frame construction. Another fibrous material commonly subjected to steam is cloth. Steam ironing is the example. Here, again, steam brings moisture deep into the fibers rendering them pliable. Pressure from the iron flattens the fibers and cloth and when dried they retain their flattened shape.
In nature, steam exists under tremendous pressure deep in the bowels of the earth. Water meeting earth’s molten core, renders it into steam. Because it is deep in the earth this steam is held under incredible pressure as it absorbs more and more heat. These steam pockets are called superheated. In some places, Iceland for example, these deep steam pockets naturally vent near the surface. This occurrence is used for heating purposes and gives an inexpensive source of energy. In other places where natural vents do not occur near the surface, pipes are drilled down to steam pockets. These deep troves of steam come to the surface and its pressure used to drive electricity generating turbines. As its pressure and heat is dissipated this steam returns to its liquid state and often is used for irrigation. For this reason, many steam exploratory projects are sited in arid locals.
Whether natural or man made, fires are constantly tended to produce this cycle of water being taken from its liquid state to gaseous and back to liquid. Water is not the only liquid that is brought to its boiling point turned into a gas and its properties changed before it is condensed back into its liquid form. Most liquids have a volatile gaseous state and heat properties are a constant part of this equation. Therefore fires of some sort are integral to our physical nature.


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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.