In New England, rock walls are a fairly common sight. What else did people do with all those rocks that they tilled from the soil? When we had our yard landscaped several years ago we had rock walls built to prevent the garden beds from eroding. We even have some rocks, er boulders really, strategically placed in one garden bed for visual interest.
So it should come as no surprise that I find myself building small rock sculptures in our yard. I don’t know what possesses me to do this.
It is a rather meditative act; you find a few rocks and begin to stack them. Sometimes they fall over when they aren’t balanced correctly. Sometimes I wedge small rock shards or sticks into the crevices to create balance. Yet even then balance can be temporary. A chipmunk tries to sit on the sculpture and topples it. A strong wind comes along and knocks the whole thing over. And again I will build the rock sculpture and try to balance it.
Balance. It is a curious concept. When we feel out-of-sync, we seek balance. When we are stressed, we seek balance. Yet when we find balance it is sometimes a temporary achievement because those outside forces that we threw us off to begin with seem to find us once more.
I’m a Libra. The astrological symbol for Libras is the scale of balance which represents the balance that Libras continually seek for ourselves and in our lives.
Before turning to art as a career and business, I worked as a Speech-Language Pathologist and then a Technical Writer. I enjoyed helping people and I enjoyed writing. Yet over time, I didn’t feel completely balanced in either of these careers. It was like I had stacked rocks temporarily but then a wobble would disrupt the balance and the rocks would tumble. I was stressed. I wasn’t very happy.
And then I found myself unemployed.
I decided to take a chance and return to my art; the one activity that I always contemplated during times of stress and dabbled in here and there.
And then I found balance.
Oh it hasn’t been without its ups and downs. The rocks still wobble and sometimes come crashing down. But resetting them is easier. And sometimes it doesn’t even matter if they are balanced because being a little off-kilter is ok now.
And so I build rock sculptures in our yard. And I find joy and balance in creating them. Some stand unscathed and others wobble. And when they tumble I don’t always feel an immediate need rebuild them. Because in life we have balance and we have imbalance. And when we feel good and secure in what we do, the little imbalances aren’t so bad anymore.
I recently learned that these rock sculptures are also known as Stone Cairns. They can be found in many countries and across many cultures including Scotland, Ireland, Tibet, and in the Arctic. The cairns were used as directional markers pointing the way home or to safety. They are also a symbol of friendship and hope. Cairns may also mark the site of a burial, the summit of a mountain, or a special event.
August 13, 2007 at 5:39 pm
just cruising by to say hi. Great post about balance. As someone who literally has to force herself to maintain a balance because I am generally obsessed about one activity to the exclusion of almost all else (art making of course) its something I need to be reminded of. I think I am going to type the word out and put it on my mirror as a reminder!
your rock stacks look like sculptures with the variations in color and size, quite lovely to see
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August 15, 2007 at 3:59 pm
Hi Amy, Great post on finding balance in your life! You have inspired me to dig out a photo I took on the big island of Hawaii. We were walking through a crater in Volcano National Park and all along the path, there were these stone cairns marking the trail. As we picked our way along the trail, these markers spoke of those who had come before us. Very spiritual and moving. -Karen
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August 15, 2007 at 5:19 pm
Hi Tricia and Karen,
Tricia, your art work is wonderful. I’m in awe that you are able to post something new to your blog almost every day. Don’t lose that “obsession” but make sure you take a break now and again.
Karen, I’m glad my post provided you with inspiration. That is more than I can ask for and makes my day. The stone cairns you witnessed sound amazing.
Thanks for stopping by ladies.
August 16, 2007 at 1:03 pm
Amy, I really enjoyed reading about stone cairns and balance. As I read your post, it made me realize that
my ‘problem’ is not so much with balancing my stack of rocks as it is in building the stack in the first place! Your post has given me something to reflect on. It has also given me a great idea on what to do with the bag of river rocks I bought to construct a table fountain!
August 30, 2008 at 4:57 am
I recently rode the Deefield Dirt and Road Randonee http://www.franklinlandtrust.org/epicride.htm
which takes place in western Mass and Southern Vermont. during this epic ride, we road for several miles alongside a shallow river that had dozens of rock scultures scattered throughout and up and down the river. It was spectacular. I would recommend this ride to anyone and also this location because of the rock sculptures.
September 1, 2008 at 2:03 am
Thanks for the ride information. It sounds like a great experience.
August 14, 2009 at 1:58 am
“Stone Cairns”- what a beautiful title. It makes me think of Ireland and Druids and their stone cairns. Very mysterious – always hinting at magical secrets – like Stonehedge – all we have to do is decode the message within.
I enjoyed this blog. Thanks for your flowing writing.
September 1, 2009 at 6:33 pm
Thanks for visiting my blog. I’m glad you enjoyed the post on Stone Cairns. Someday I hope to visit Ireland and see their stone cairns. Isn’t it funny how a simple “rock” can be so inspiring?
Thanks for the compliments on my writing too. I appreciate it.
March 23, 2010 at 8:55 am
a beautiful and magickal thing to do whilst building your stone cairns is to visualise a specific need or want for example i will use balance:
whilst building, visualise you with balance in your life;
really see you balancing your daily needs like work alongside your hobbies and desires.
watch yourself enjoy a healthy, balanced life, if your doing it right you will smile 🙂
with the final stone, place it on as a final act of bringing your desires into manifestation, the cairn has become a symbolic creation of your desires, and will always remind you of why you built it.
the cairn will do its work for us as it did for the druids, (as maureen rightfully pointed out)