A Difficult Rock

There is a place on the Battenkill (river) where I spent a lot of time during the winter. Little did I know that it overlooked a prime spot for balancing rocks! A narrow, rocky island was visible through the winter, but I didn’t realize it was accessible, public land.

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The Battenkill roared along all winter long with such velocity that I couldn’t imagine attempting to cross to the island. But now it’s late spring. The water level is lower, and the river bubbles along peacefully. It’s safe to cross to the incredibly beautiful, peaceful spot that is literally in the back yard of the private property to which I had access .

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I go to the river often and sit in the center with my feet in the water to learn what the rocks can teach me about balance. The harmony of all the sounds – the rooster crowing, the children playing, the birds singing, the river flowing – soothe the soul and make me grateful to be a small part of it all.

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Most recently, I spent about 45 minutes focusing on a single rock. It was reddish and very bulky and nearly came to a needlepoint at the tip on which I wanted to balance it. It felt like a rock that couldn’t possibly be balanced. But I believed I could do it and wanted to prove to myself that what looked and felt impossible was actually within the realm of possibility. I found that rock intriguing and believed in its potential for balance. In my mind’s eye, I already could see it balanced and knew it was lovely and worth the effort.

One thing I appreciate about the practice of stone balance art is that my most dominant sense (sight) is not particularly useful during the actual process of balancing. I need to rely primarily on my sense of touch, which gives me the opportunity to further develop it. I work with attention and gratitude as the river sings its song of change and flow; the rocks whisper of stillness; and my heart, mind, body, and spirit fall into alignment in deep and harmonious collaboration with nature.

After about 35 minutes of trying to balance this one rock, I started to wonder: What’s the point? Why would I want to spend my time trying to balance this rock if it’s that hard to balance? Well, the point was to show that I could do what seemed impossible – what I put my mind to. To help the rock experience the balance it seemed to long for when I held it in my hands. It eventually did click into balance, and it was gratifying.

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The large, red rock remained balanced long enough to photograph it. It was a windy day, so conditions weren’t ideal for keeping the rock in a state of equilibrium. After it fell, I picked it up to rebalance it. However, after a few seconds, I felt that familiar, lopsided heaviness and decided to let it be. I’d already gone through so much trying to work with this challenging rock and get it in balance. Why go through that again? Why not move on to a different rock that’s not so difficult?

And so I did. I imagine many people would consider it a waste of time to focus so intently on that one rock. When I work with other stone balance artists, they tend to put up many more balances than I do in the same amount of time. But I don’t regret the time or the full attention I gave to that rock. While I connected with its energy, the hypnotic sound of the flowing river carried me into deeper connection with the life energies around and within me. My state of mind was elevated to a place of peace and equanimity that transported me beyond the habitual preoccupation with thought, where stillness and wisdom speak. For a brief eternity, I was in perfect harmony with that bulky, red rock, and it was wonderful.  And I learned a lot by working so intimately with its unique properties.

And then I moved on to heart-shaped rocks, for they had something to teach me, too – and stayed balanced longer!

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Every rock has something to teach, if you care to listen. And so I go to the river every chance I get, to learn from the rocks as the river sings its song.

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