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, October 8, 2008


In an oxygen rich atmosphere, materials that are only glowing or smoldering will suddenly burst into flame. An example was provided by my friend Chris who persisted in smoking cigarettes despite being hooked up to pure oxygen that compensated for lung congestion caused by advanced stage lung cancer. She usually remembered to remove the oxygen tube from her nose when she was going to light up. Some times she forgot. Once sitting with her, I witnessed her pull a lit cigarette to her face. As it got near it turned into a flaming torch. She got it away quickly and dowsed it in an ashtray. Burn marks on her clothing and bedding, attested that many attempts likely occurred. Luckily, her quick reflexes prevailed and got the burning faggot moved away from its catalyst.
In more controlled fashion, oxygen is fanned into embers to try and increase the burn. As a youngster, I remember bending near a budding fire. It usually required pressing a cheek near the ground and blowing sideways at mostly glowing cinders that lacked flames. It took a special knack to direct a stream of breath at the base, so that smoke did not blow back at my face. It also helped to control the jet so that is was lasting and steady. If administered properly, flames would pick up, Once established, I could back away and the fire would draw air to itself.
In this small way, I was using my lungs as a bellows.
The same effect can be produced to enhance the burn of a fire. Forcing air at a fire increases the burn rate and thereby the heat. One time I lived in a house that relied on a wood stove for heat. My job was to tend the fire. We had a tool that consisted of a long metal tube. At one end was a mouthpiece similar to that found on a wind instrument. The other end had a pointed nozzle that had two small holes side by side. This tool could be placed into the fire and by blowing on the mouthpiece a steady stream of air could be directed to a precise spot in the fire. I experimented with directed a sustained blast of air at the most internal part of the blaze. It was easy to detect I was making an incredible hot spot. I further experimented with placing bits of metal in a crucible in this hot spot. I was able to bring the temperature up to a point that metals I played with glowed red and became plastic and pliable. I was discovering the elements of forging.
Mechanical devices came to be used for the same effect. These could maintain an even steady stream of air at a fire and did not have to pause for inhalations and catching breath. They could work steady. Old-time forges had such a device and it consisted of an air bladder that when expanded sucked in air. When it was collapsed, air was forced out of a nozzle at the fire. Usually, an apprentice operated this device, pumping it up and down, while the master worked at the fire end handling red hot metal pieces. This is another form of bellows. The root of this word means blast bag. Furnaces that had similar devices were called blast furnaces. This is where fires were brought up to such heat that hard metals such as iron and steel could be melted and forged.
In a forging experiment, I devised a means to turn a used washing machine pump motor into a blower. Through a set of pipes I directed a slow steady stream of air at a coal fire, I had set up in an old tractor rim. The air would blow up through the pile of coals, setting them to a good glow. From the side I could place metals and crucibles in the coals. This produced a steady hot fire without the need to have someone constantly at work pumping an airbag up and down.
The last form of bellows I witnessed is that one found in nature. This is when a fresh breeze springs up while a fire is going outdoors. Here a strong wind acts counter productive to creating a hot fire, since it has more of a dispersing effect and can blow the fire out. But when the breeze is slow and steady it creates a blast furnace effect. Such fires have been known to melt metals and glass, at temperatures far exceeding those capable of being produced in ordinary wood fires. Again, it is the air blast that makes the difference. By working with fire in these conditions, I began to see why ancients regarded fire as a magical and transformational element.


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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.