Saturday, August 23, 2014

Balance Along the Deerfield River

Last weekend, I set a goal to go on three more adventures before the month is over. I didn't have anything in particular in mind other than to engage the magic of the "yes" energy wave I've been riding all summer long. As if on cue, a friend contacted me to say she was driving home from Vermont and passed by some rock balances that made her feel peaceful and also made her think of me. I know someone in an online rock balancing community who lives in Vermont and wondered if he might have done them. We had been meaning to get together for quite some time to balance rocks in a beautiful setting, and I didn't realize how close he lived to us until I asked him if he was responsible for the balances my friend had noticed. Turns out he wasn't, but the wheels in my head were set in motion, and my husband discovered he had a couple days off in a row for the first time all summer. Less than 24 hours later, we were on the road headed for Vermont for our first experience camping away from home in our RV and our first play date with another rock balancer.
We scored a private, wooded site at a campground just outside of Bennington, with a babbling brook only a few yards away. It was a cold night, and the sky was clear and dark, with no discernible light pollution and a very late-rising moon - which combined to reveal more stars and celestial objects than I've ever seen, including a few meteors streaking across the sky. It was so quiet.

The following afternoon, we met Robert, our fellow rock balancer, in person for the first time and retreated to the upper reaches of the northwest branch of the Deerfield River in Searsburg. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day, and the very first trees (few and far between) were turning red.

It was illuminating to balance rocks with someone much more experienced. I am an eager beginner, my husband has been balancing regularly for the past 15 months, and Robert - a kindred spirit - has been at it for several years. For him, balancing rocks is a daily, spiritual practice. I warmed up by balancing some fairly hefty, single rocks vertically. I love to interconnect with the energy of the rocks and discover their point of balance, which is inherent and just waiting to be found. It's a meditative, centering activity.

Then I set to work on some simple balances, noticing which rocks seemed to be calling to me.

Meanwhile, the men concentrated on their own balances.

In the photo below, if you draw a line diagonally from the bottom, left corner to the top, right corner, my balances are in the half that falls within the bottom, right triangle (including the balance in the foreground), and theirs were in the other half. We lined the river with balances!

My husband's back was bothering him, so he wasn't capable of his best work. However, when I compared my self-described "baby balances" to his and Robert's, it was clear they had pushed through some mental barriers and were working on a more advanced level than me. For starters, every now and then I'd hear loud thuds as large rocks they were working with fell to the ground. (To avoid injury, it's important to wear protective footwear and/or to be vigilant.) That was because they were taking risks, pushing limits, thinking outside of the box - whereas I was playing it safer. I have come to regard rock balancing as a reflection of one's willingness to take risks, think creatively, and trust in life - as illustrated by some of Robert's balances in the photo, below.

Their work with rocks inspires me, along with stories shared about their lives and Robert's profound faith and trust that life will provide what he needs. (We engaged in no small talk.) These are unconventional, caring, loving, free spirits who live their lives with deep integrity and without concern for material possessions or pleasing others. There is real freedom in knowing how little you truly need in order to live an authentic, satisfying life - a freedom that reduces fear and inspires me greatly. My sense is that many members of the international rock balancing community have tapped into this energy, and I am inspired daily by seeing the balances - sometimes extremely elaborate ones - that are shared online. They convince me that virtually anything is possible if we really and truly put our minds to it and open ourselves to inspiration and grace.

Balance and photo by Michael Grab/Gravity Glue, and

If you don't take risks that sometimes result in toppling rocks, you can't take it to the next level. I'm talking about both rocks and life. Toppling and momentary "failures" are a crucial part of advancing. By being willing to take risks, you engage a different level of energy that is ultimately more satisfying than playing it safe and keeping it neat and symmetrical. You get to learn what you're capable of, expand your limitations, and revise your conceptions of what is possible. It doesn't mean that life (or balancing rocks) is easy, but you realize that you have the inner resources to work with what comes along and to roll with it. You allow the rocks to guide you, instead of imposing your will on them, so that you are co-creators. You also develop patience. For instance, while working on the balance in the photo below, it took a quite a while for me to find the balance point of the large, pointy rock. But I felt drawn to that rock and just knew I could connect with its point of balance. It seemed to volunteer and want to be balanced! And finally, it happened. And for a while, that was good enough. But eventually I returned and added to it.

When you take it to the next level, you aren't concerned with balancing just one, individual rock at a time. You expand your awareness to focus on relationships between two or more rocks at a time and how the relationship affects the balance points. You become more aware of the whole and how everything fits together. It's a different way of thinking than focusing linearly on one single rock at a time. The photo below shows another of Robert's balances.

By the time we left several hours later, I couldn't begin to count all the balances we'd created along the river. And the conversations were every bit as inspiring as our natural surroundings.

But there was even more inspiration awaiting on our way to dinner, when Robert shared with me a presentation binder that illustrated how he has introduced children as young as three years old to the joyful practice of balancing rocks. I teach kindergarten but haven't introduced my students to rock balancing because I felt they were too young. However, seeing the interest of even younger children has opened my eyes. With proper ground rules and supervision, I think rock balancing could be an enriching activity for my students - perhaps a quiet center during play time. I might even keep a small basket of rocks in the Quiet Tent for a child to arrange and/or balance in solitude. There are so many mini lessons to be modeled and shared!

We had such a great time on the Deerfield River with our new friend. The energy was wonderful and positive. Although I haven't figured out my two remaining adventures for the month, I have a strong feeling they will involve rocks and water.  

The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a "custom print" in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

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