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

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Steam Box

Outside the chain-link fence behind my dad’s boat shop was a fire pit. Suspended across the pit was an eight inch diameter cast iron pipe several feet long. One end rested on the bottom of the pit. The pipe tilted up and its other end supported by a metal frame. The upper end protruded through a hole cut in the chain link fence and ended as it entered a long wooden box that was perhaps 10 inches high, several feet wide and at least twenty feet long. The far end of the box was covered by a canvas flap. The pipe was filed with water. When a fire was sustained beneath it the water would turn to steam and travel upward to enter the steam box. The canvas flap contained the steam so that it would not escape and when it condensed back to water would flow back into the pipe to be converted to steam again.
This steam box had an integral part in the process of building wooden boats. Several lengths of wood, usually oak or mahogany, that were pre-shaped into their finished profiles would be placed into the box and subjected to steam for several hours. Wood that has high water content is pliable. After being in steam for a while, the wooden parts would be flexible enough to be bent around a frame to produce gunwales, chines, or bow stems. However, determining the correct moisture content was not exact and resulted in mishaps.
While waiting for the wood to steam, shop workers would stay busy with other boatbuilding tasks. These included milling lumber, gluing up sub assemblies, or preparing previously finished hulls for the paint shop. Every so often one of the workers would go over to the steam box, lift the canvas flap, peer inside, then shake his head and walk back into the shop. Eventually, a worker after peering inside the box would don a leather glove, reach in, retrieve one of the pieces and carry it into the shop. Bending it around and fastening it to the frame took all the available workers.
Besides working handling steamy hot material, it had to be formed into its structural shape before it was secured. First one end was fastened into place with wood screws, Next, all available hands bent and twisted and applied clamps to hold the cooling piece of timber into position before it was permanently fixed into place. Sometimes before this task was accomplished a loud cracking sound would reveal that this piece had not been thoroughly steamed. The result would be a splintered half fastened piece of useless product. This event was usually accompanied by curses, mutterings and clanging noises from clamps hitting the floor as they were thrown off the piece of lumber that no longer held its place.
Fortunately more material had in the meantime been cooking. So, likely the next piece withdrawn would have a better chance of being bent without problem. Usually after cleaning up the mess from the broken piece and before drawing out the next one, a break was called and good mood restored. Happy attitude seems important when handling wood withdrawn from a steam box.


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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.