Back in February, I wrote a post about Michael Grab, an artist from Boulder, Colorado whose gravity-defying rock balancing impressed me greatly. I wanted to learn how to balance rocks after discovering his work and felt it would be right up Jack's alley, too. So for his birthday last spring, I gave him a book called Center of Gravity: A Guide to the Practice of Rock Balancing by Peter Juhl, which Michel Grab had recommended on his "Gravity Glue" Facebook page. It was one of the best presents I have ever given Jack, for he has been balancing rocks ever since, and it has opened him up to a whole new artistic direction and world of possibilities. He is passionate about it. And I should mention right off the bat that, unless otherwise noted, all of the photos in this post are of rocks he balanced.
Balancing rocks is meditation, science, and art. We have towers of balanced rocks all over our yard, around our dock on the riverside, and everywhere else we go. The towers of balanced rocks elevate the spaces around them into art and draw our attention to balance.
Jack keeps a basket of rocks in his van and seizes opportunities to balance rocks when he is out and about using either his own rocks or rocks that are already in the environment. One benefit of this is that he doesn't mind waiting for me as much as he used to. He balances rocks while waiting for our water bottles to fill at the spring. When he picks me up from work (if my car is being repaired), he balances rocks next to the playground while I finish up. If he's with me when I walk the labyrinth, I don't need to be self-conscious about walking too slowly because he occupies himself with whatever rocks he can find. When he accompanies me on nature photo shoots, I don't feel rushed, for the same reason!
I've gone to the "school of rock" a few times myself and enjoy working with rock energy. When you really tune in to the rocks, you can perceive their subtle energy. It reminds me of playing with blocks as a child - which, for many of us, is our first experience with balancing something external to ourselves. There is something highly gratifying about achieving balance. You learn to focus intensely and cultivate patience and resilience. The rocks are going to fall at times, and you have to be okay with that and just keep going. It also helps to wear shoes because rocks are heavy when they fall!
When you balance rocks, you try to find the center of gravity at which the forces acting upon the rock are cancelled completely by opposing forces. There's more to it than that, but I never took physics and am not even going to begin to describe the mechanics involved in balancing rocks. That's what the book is for!
Michael Grab's use of the term "gravity glue" describes perfectly the reaction people have to rock balancing. When Jack balances rocks - either in person or when he puts pictures online - people inevitably comment that he must use glue. The seemingly impossible positions of the rocks suggest the use of some kind of adhesive or sleight of hand, but the truth is that it's simple mechanics. Gravity is the glue!
Here is a tower Jack balanced the day before, still standing at sunrise.
And here it is the next day at sunrise:
Today is the end of the first week of fall. Autumn equinox is a time of balance between light and dark. Jack has made numerous videos of himself balancing rocks this past week, unaware of the significance of balance at this time of year. Below are two videos he made within days of the fall equinox. I love how everything comes together at the end of the first video: the rocks, the waves, the music. (It wasn't planned; it's just the way it worked out!) Watching his videos is a meditation in itself, and you probably can sense how deeply he is in "the zone."
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Watching Jack's videos got me in the mood to do some rock balancing this beautiful fall afternoon. Here is one of my attempts:
I like to balance the rocks I collected on the beach at the ocean this summer, even though smooth, rounded rocks are more difficult to balance than rocks that have "character." But even simple rock stacking is pleasing and brings a sense of balance to the mind:
Inspired by Jack, I look forward to doing more balancing and not just being the photographer! This is powerful stuff!
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