Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Three tiny bridges


'Thinking with my hands' is a description of how the activity of building beautiful structures with just stones, happens. Over the past 15 years I've had the pleasure of designing, organizing and being a big 'hands-on' part of the construction over a dozen full-size dry stone footbridges bridges here in Canada.   I'd like to think the full sized bridges I make are getting a 'little' better each year, and that the quality of realism of little bridges has greatly improved too.








Monday, April 23, 2018

Earth Day is Rock Day





Im taking a short break from The Impatient Rock story.

In this video Alan Watts explains how life on earth is destined to emerge from that very stuff the earth is made of – rock.  

Seems like a good theme for the day after Earth Day.

"...We are thinking in a way that disconnects the intelligence from the rocks. Where there are rocks, watch out! Watch out, because the rocks are going to eventually come alive and they are going to have people crawling over them. It is only matter of time, just in the same way the acorn is eventually going to turn into the oak because it has the potentiality of that within it. Rocks are not dead. You see, it depends on what kind of attitude you want to take to the world... You cannot get an intelligent organism such as a human being out of an unintelligent universe. So in any lump of rock floating about in space, there is implicit human intelligent. Don't differentiate yourself and standoff against this and say 'I am a living organism in a world made of a lot of dead junk, rocks and stuff.' It all goes together, those rocks are just as much you as your finger nails." ~ Alan Watts

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3iEE561GhO8

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Small is beautiful.


Inspired recently by a clever stop action video a friend sent to my Facebook page, of lego figures building a small arch, I decided I wanted to try my hand at some dry stone arching action too. First, I downloaded a great app called Stop Motion. Then yesterday morning, I took some buckets of small stones I'd been collecting, poured them onto my stone table and set to work, to build a dry stone bridge as a set for my first miniature movie production.


I used small centering that had been given to me by a student of mine who used it for making a small niches in a very tidy wall he built after he took my workshop. 


A place mat made the perfect curved surface over the arch for building on. It looked just like boards laid across the centering


The work was going well. It's more comfortable to work off a table than on the ground. The last bridge I built, the stones were much heavier too.


I had originally thought about doing a stop action showing the whole process but this would have literally stopped the bridge building action down too much, so I just took stills using my iPhone and a tiny new tripod that really makes closeups look much clearer. I figured I'd only do the stop motion stuff if I had time at the point where the centering is removed



My guy Clayton Waller was there for all the heavy lifts.


He took lots of breaks though. 


There he is again. You know, now that I think about it, Clay took a lot of breaks. I think I did most of the work.


The vertical coping for the parapet was completed about four o'clock in the afternoon. I was glad I wasn't up that high .It looked a bit dangerous.  


Clayton taking another break.


Let's see what did Clay figure? Ah yes, that the span is about twelve of his feet of clay.






Time to remove the shims and the 4x 4 supports and take the centering out, now. I better go help him.


Phew it didn't fall down. Hooray !



Saturday, April 21, 2018

Valuable Change Part 5 of The Impatient Rock



Those who hope day after day for a change, for something better, know how frustratingly slow it sometimes comes, if at all. It seems like all the stars in heaven have to align for anything to improve.

Good intentions, self improvement books, motivational videos, different diets and exercise schemes are not enough. There has to be some other magical ingredient, some brief moment, some kind of monumental coincidence, where in the sighing cosmos condescends to allow for an opening, within a ridiculously small envelope of time, for change to take place, in an otherwise immutable universe.

Timing is indeed everything. Everything except reliable.
Good luck trying to find some change when you need it, or be in the right place at the right time. Presuming to try make things happen alone, without waiting for real change, is futile.

Change is as illusive, as it is real. It is a precious thing. 

For some, change seems scary. 
They moan about every new thing that change brings. 
If people ever thought about how rare it was, they wouldn’t complain about it so much. 
They wouldn’t try to avoid it or attempt to force it – change is transcendental!

Better to try to appreciate it, even if its taking too long or happening too fast.
The world is blessed with change. It makes a world of difference. 


Consider now by contrast, the perpetual plight of poor rocks.
The chance of any kind of change occurring within the extent any of their geological strata is just about nil.   

Time in their world is so elongated, so protracted, change effectively doesn’t exist.

True some rocks might have come across the concept of change in some long forgotten archives of their mythology.
But none are able to remember any evidence, or discern any effect, of it. To them, change is an illusion. To them, to pretend to believe in change is delusional.

And yet, the impatient rock in our story longed to discover change. He desired it more intently than those in any civilization in the past have sought to find gold.


Yet the rock somehow knew the treasure was within. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Knowing the difference Part 4 of The Impatient Rock


There is good impatience, and there is bad impatience.
Impatience with your circumstances or with others does not usually turn out well.
Impatience with your self can be positive. 
While it may seem like the cause of a problem, it also has the potential to be the solution too. 
Anticipation and expectancy are positive spin offs of impatience. These are signs of hope.

But
Most rocks don't look impatient,though maybe some could be described as looking a bit bored.
It would seem reasonable however that rocks might be bored 
And yet even if they were bored, how would we know it?
We can't see what's going on inside.

The rock in our story is anticipating an alternative that transcends the normal consistent rocklike state of waiting

Our rock, unlike the others, looks outwardly impatient, but he is not bored. 
Our rock, unlike the others, is looking inwardly impatiently anticipating something.

This is a rock in a somewhat altered state.
He has entered a state of anticipation. 

The unbearable sameness of being leaves him no other choice but to search for (and accept, and own up to) some inconsistency within. To discover some discontinuity in a universe of sameness. 

This is the beginning of wisdom for him.
The rock has in fact begun exploring a new order. 
It involves a coming to grips with his own inconsistencies, his own faults, his own gaps.

He is ready for change.



Thursday, April 19, 2018

A River of Sameness Part 3 of The Impatient Rock



Rocks discern things differently from us, in that they don't discern differently. Everything is appreciated to be the same. 

Things are never 'once upon a time' in the world of rocks. They are always. This is not a problem for most rocks. Differentiation is not important. Their world is one. The now is everything, and things need not be separated. Things stay the same.

This is a hard thing for us to understand. It’s more like how we see a river, in that we don't see a difference. What we call a river is seen to be a continuously existing thing. It looks pretty much the same each time we go there to look at it. And yet, those molecules of water that made up the thing we still call the river are no longer there!

The 'river' is merely a timeless, continuously flowing. The current, that we perceive as always being there, is only an 'occurrence'. It's all the same. 

For rocks, occurrences do not necessarily have to occur in time. They can just be concepts in space . In this manner, the same way we perceive a river, from the position of rocks, everything occurs to be unchanged . Everything.  

Rocks by the way, are all part of that same river. They are all one – all the same. 

How is it then, that our rock is so intent, so impatient, to be free from this river of sameness – to discover a place where something, anything, is different, or perhaps a 'time' that is not always the same? 

There has to be an alternative to sameness, he thought to himself. Otherwise something is missing.
***



For anything to be complete it must contain its own antithesis.   George Feuerstein












Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Spanning Time Alone Part 2 of The Impatient Rock



The rock just sat there, all alone, continuing to ponder. 

If there really was a future, our impatient friend needed to know about it.  

"And what a unique thing it would be", he mused - "to know about things that might, or even might not, happen. To just be aware of the passing of time would be enough".  

For you see, rocks knew nothing about it . And so there was no need to worry, let alone hope for the best, or even prepare for the worst.  Nothing went wrong in the now. 

"Might it be possible," thought the rock, "for whatever it was that might be ‘outside’ the now, to somehow go wrong"?  

Our rock, like all his friends, existed in one dimension, in other words, they knew they took up space.  And while in their rock-like way while they grasped it, they felt out of their elements when it came to understanding time.  If a rock had knowledge of space AND time, and the ability to determine things in both dimensions, it would be massive! But really, how much weight could a mere mortal rock actually put on any kind of far reaching concept as the possibility  of the ‘future'.

"And then of course there was the other possibility of experiencing the ‘past' with all its illusionary restraints", he surmised.  "How might a rock deal with the past? And what on earth would it be like for a rock to live in the past? To leave all this ‘now’ behind? Or would the now then be in front?  Would there be any regrets? Might there not be a monumental sense of loss?"

The thought of time and travel, imagining the past and the future, the idea of breaking through to another dimension, these things just made our impatient rock more impatient to try to find out.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Impatient Rock


There was a time when there was no 'once upon a time'.
This is the story about that time, and a very impatient rock.

Like all those in his strata, and every other geological layer on earth, this rock had been laying around for millions of years, doing nothing. Time meant nothing, for there was no sense of it.
Everyone waited, without knowing it.

The rock in our story however, for some strange fault in his basic molecular composition, couldn’t wait.
He sensed, he needed to ‘become' something.
His inert existence no longer had any attraction.
Even though he was inanimate, he was determined to try to make something of his life.
To improve himself.

"All the other rocks are just content", he thought.
He was right.
Except for occasional erosion, or weathering, or minor upheaval, they were all in a constant state of rest.

They didn’t need to move or try to be anything or ever step out of the now. It was almost zen-like.

But our rock didn’t want to be always 'in the now'
He wanted something very different, and yet had no idea what it was. 
He sensed he needed to experience something that couldn’t be put into words. 
One of the words he might have been looking for was ‘purpose'.

All he knew was he longed to get away from ‘sameness’, he needed a break from constancy and immutability.
Change was maybe what he needed.

He sensed a yearning deep inside to escape, not from the bonding that kept him together, that elemental molecular attraction which inevitably predicts his atomic structure. After all, he was a ‘metamorphic’ rock, which meant he (and all his type) had been ‘transformed' under great pressure and heat. 
He’d understood from the others, how 'life changing' it was.
But it wasn't.

"How ironic. What a waste of synergy. The whole metamorphic process is so predictable" he thought.
No, he needed to find release from a different type of bonding. A mere reordering or remixing of the same geological materials was not going to fix it.

All the others saw how unhappy he was. His impatience had weighed him down and affected his whole countenance. 
He looked so compressed.

How could he, or any of the rocks, have known that it was ‘spontaneity' he was lacking? 



to be continued

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Slanted Crevice Wall



Snowy days and frosty weather has revisited us here to Ontario. Spring is not just stalling, it's in retreat. The garden walls are aching to throw winter out, but the ice hangs on tight in the crevices. The tiny alpine plants (despite their hardy names) must hang tight for another month at least before they try to grow. 

At least the slanted garden photographs well with such frosty white contrasts.  

The stones are the protectors of the soil, rooted deep, carrying the rhythm and beauty of the front garden until the plants are able to take over.




Saturday, April 14, 2018

Appropriate setting.



I purposely tried to take all the photos of Goldsworthy's wall at Storm King Art Center without other sculptures in the view. Mark Di Suvero's I-beam structure 'Pyramidian' seen in the upper right, off in the distance, ended up in this picture.

It is made pretty clear in anything you read about the sculpture park that all the art has been carefully chosen, and even if it is not created on sight, is still placed with the utmost attention as to how it 'fits' into the land.

Before he began Goldsworthy tells us he walked the property for several days until he started to get a vision of what kind of installation could be introduced to the landscape.  He studied the lay of the land. He surveyed the materials that were available. He appreciated how that material was used on the property in the past. The remnants of old stone walls were there. He noticed how those walls  dissolved over time and were swallowed up by the trees and absorbed into the ground.  What he saw appealed to his sensibilities. .

His artistic concept was to explore a new sympathetic line of wall, taking into account the mature trees and changes that had happened to the land over many years. The stones that were there, along with similar stones brought in from surrounding area, he and his men crafted and coaxed into what became the 'meandering wall' which becomes an artistic statement that, at the very least, alludes to the supposition that art can compliment, and enhance, (and shouldn't unnecessarily 'contradict')  its surroundings. 

If it these qualities of harmony are not evident in the choice (and situating) of the artwork, there ought to be a really good reason for it. 


Pyramidian




Friday, April 13, 2018

Meanderthal Goldsworthy



Another piece of Andy's, created in a different location of Storm King Art Center (built ten years later than the original more famous curvy wall ) is a somewhat shorter meandering wall, this time winding its way around huge boulders instead of trees. It's called 'Five Men Seventeen Days Fifteen Boulders One Wall'  



The two walls, both inspiring examples of the same continuing theme of Goldsworthy's, reinforce the sense of appreciation and understanding he has for this fundamentally natural flowing shape. 

The movie 'Rivers and Tides' shows more of his investigation  into winding river shapes in nature. 

Many of his other works too, explore this hauntingly familiar serpentine curve found in plants and animals and in a myriad of other geological and geophysical formations. 

The connection to the basic building block of all living things, the DNA molecule comes to mind too. 

The mystical looping Ayahuasca snake pattern described by the Peruvian Shamen, the iconic symbol for medicine, even the elongated meandering of the spiral path of the orbits of the planets, as they speed though the universe – these all trace a basic shape that we recognize in its more familiar manifestations. 




Are we drawn to this primitive meandering shape for a reason. Is there something more subconscious going on?

It is the antithesis to the straight line and to the sterile lifeless calculations of Euclidian geometry. It is the line of life. It defies clinical systemization. 

Life follows an elusive wavy path of growth. It can not be delineated or outlined in any rule books. To try to standardize or straighten it, or fit it into a fixed shape is to lose the flow, to lose the meaning and to damn the river
Image result for meandering symbol for life

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Dry/Wet Connections




The stones in the Goldsworthy wall venture boldly into the lake somehow believing that together they can reach the far shore.






Monday, April 9, 2018

More on the Wall



An amazingly talented five man team of wallers including Stephen Allen and Maxwell Nowell completed Goldsworthy’s Storm King ‘Wall’ in 1998 using approximately 1,579 tons of fieldstone. I read somewhere that this 2,278 foot long art installation was built in less than three months. However long it took to build, and/or however fast it was built, it obviously was constructed well, because it gives no evidence of slumping or coming apart anywhere (except perhaps where ice freezes and moves some of the top stones as the tails of the wall descend into the pond) . 

The meandering path of the wall (indicated by orange lines below the actual wall which can be seen in this satellite  photo) was first traced out by Andy as he determined where its curving loops were to crisscross over some of the original line of the remains of an much older wall which was made with stones cleared off the land some 200 years ago.


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Curve Appeal


Andy Goldsworthy’s exaggeratedly meandering wall installation at Storm King Art Center in new Windsor, New York State, presents all kinds of satisfying curve shapes to linger arournd in, so that if you take your time along the way, you rarely feel out of the loop .

Probably Andy’s most well known work and still his largest art piece to date, the wall attracts thousands of visitors each year to the park. Driving down from Canada to see this iconic serpentine dry stone wall was something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time, ever since we’d seen the inspired documentary about Goldsworthy,  ‘Rivers and Tides’

I don’t know if it still considered to be an epiphany when you fully anticipate the likelihood of it happening, but anyway, suffice it to say, I knew seeing this amazing dry stone wall in real life was definitely not going to disappoint.

More photos of our weekend visit to Storm King to follow.


.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Shoot if you must.

Shoot for beauty and composition. Forgo the cheap pleasure of target practice. Shoot for life. Nothing good ever comes from shooting at life.

Friday, April 6, 2018

The handle is always the one that goes.



Photo by Mark Ricard

The handle is always the one that goes. 
It slips away,
or 
it breaks from the weight. 
And so the head is now destined to wait. 

The head's handle is 'no longer', so the head is no longer able to move. 
No longer useful. 

The head needs the body. 
While it may continue to exist alone, and try to be 'cool', it has no ability to function alone.

The head and body could have got along better?
More snug maybe? 
Or maybe the handle wasn't strong enough? 
Or maybe somehow, it was the head's fault? 

I could take time and refit the heads with handles, but I don't. I buy another. I can't wait. 

My head is in another place.

Note to self - 
Try to get a grip. Stay connected. 
Don't just be cool with things the way they are.
Be strong, but don't blame the body.

Time is precious.



Thursday, April 5, 2018

Impressive ambiguity

My friend Norman Haddow recently posted a photo of Hagar Qim on his Facebook blog 'Dry Stone Walling’ . It is a massive megalithic temple complex that dates between 3600 and 3200 BCE, the impressive remains of which can be explored on the island of Malta. 
The temple complex is a maze-like masterpiece from some forgotten stone world of the past - a rambling conglomerate of ancient architectural shapes and mysterious stone enclosures. 
When I first saw the arial photo of this amazing place, my eyes perceived it as a clever arrangement tiny rocks that some model maker had carefully built, so as to fool the viewer into believing such a fantastic stone landscape might actually exist. 
But it does exist! 
It is strange how stones possess this intriguing capacity to fool the eye. Certainly in terms of scale, something that looks like a huge rock can turn out to be just a small stone, and vice versa.
I decided to explore the theme of misperception, by building a real (though imaginary) small scale facsimile of the ruins, with stones I’d collected from the beach. After I’d created the whimsical 'minilithic' sanctuary, I decided I’d create some tiny monastic order out of plastercine and dot followers around the maze, contemplating the meaning of life
These monks, who belonged to some mysterious stone cult, apparently knew how to move great stones, presumably by yielding to some greater power, namely me. 
Their dwelling place and sacred meeting areas, captured in an ethereal way by use of a graphic video app, appear in this short video clip with music by Mozart (interpreted by Chris Botti) in the background. 
I imagine someday someone might  be fooled into thinking that the stones in the clip are/were not real, but rather merely only 'simulated' through animation.  And so stone’s inherent capacity for creating ambiguity of scale and time and reality, continues.

To see the clip you have to go to my Instagram link.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Easter Flower Hunt






Spring is taking its time getting to southern Ontario. This Easter, we decided to encourage Mother Nature a bit, by dotting spring flowers around our one acre property for our grand kids to try to find, instead of hiding chocolate eggs. We hid them in easy to find places in the walls . When the grandkids found enough they got a prize - ( something not sugary/bad for their teeth). 




You'll be glad to know they found all their flowers. 


Dear Mother Nature, now it's your turn. Please stop hiding your spring flowers so well.


Wall on the Wild Side.

Re-Posted from the Bennington Banner
Posted 
When you think about the iconic landforms of the Northeast, what comes to mind? The mountains, of course. The lakes. Of course. Rivers? Probably.

But there's another. Stone walls. An estimated 100,000 miles of them. They might not be as impressive as the Presidential Range or Moosehead Lake, but collectively they make a big impact on the landscape and the creatures who live there.

Stone walls parse the land into finer pieces, creating diverse microclimates and ecosystems and opportunities for creatures of all types, said Robert M. Thorson, a University of Connecticut geology professor, the founder of the Stone Wall Initiative, and the author of three books about New England's stone walls: "Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History in New England's Stone Walls;" "Exploring Stone Walls: A Field Guide to New England's Stone Walls" and "Stone Wall Secrets" (co-authored with Kristine Thorson).

In "Exploring Stone Walls," he wrote that "when we encounter a stone wall in the deep woods, we instinctively think of the place as being desolate. This is an illusion. Every stone in every wall is animated with life."

Stone walls literally change things from the soil level on up, Thorson told me in an interview. "Think about shade and sunlight and wind and the implications of that for moisture and temperature. Think about the structure of the wall and the conductivity of the stone relative to the ground. They're heat pumps and ventilators."

The base of stone walls might be cool and moist, the crevices like tiny caves. The top might be a desert, dry and barren. On one side of a wall might be woods, the other field. "Walls sort of divide, create and enforce differences," Thorson said. If you have a wall on a slope it might be capturing soils on the upside, while the soils on the downside might be poorer. "That makes shade or not shade. You have upslope and downslope," he said.

Animals of all types utilize stone walls — from foxes to chipmunks to salamanders. Cats and foxes use them as travel lanes, while the extra elevation could help them spot prey, or predators. When my friends at Northern Woodlands brought in their game cameras last fall, they had some great shots of a bobcat and a black bear on a stone wall. Yes, a black bear.

Thorson said Blanding's turtles migrate to breeding sites along stone walls, where the leaf litter is moister and there's more protection from predators.

"It's a wall, but it's also a corridor," Thorson told me. "You get wet and dry, shady, moist, windward and leeward. It introduces a vertical billboard to the landscape and increases habitat diversity."

The immensity of the stone wall landform — New England's stone walls are at least two times the length of the Interstate Highway System — means that is a lot of habitat.

While a single pile of rocks might attract a few chipmunks or white-footed mice, imagine that rodent-friendly habitat chained together for miles. Then think about the minks and snakes, the foxes and owls that prey on those rodents and you see how the effect is multiplied up the food chain. Stone walls can, literally, make our landscape come alive.

"I just think they've made the landscape much more interesting because of the power of plant and animal communities to adapt to the changes they impose," said Thorson.

When talking about the power of stone walls to attract animal life, Thorson likes to use us as an example. Take a bunch of second graders and assemble them in a field between a pond and a woods edged by a stone wall. Tell them to go find nature and they'll head for the pond because, well, that's where they've been taught that nature exists. Tell them to go explore, he said, and they'll head right for the stone wall.

Many of us take stone walls for granted. But they are as vulnerable as anything else to human activity. While there are still an estimated 100,000 miles of them in New England, it's worthwhile noting that, in 1939 mining engineer Oliver Bowles estimated their combined length at 259,000 miles, according to the Stone Wall Initiative.

If the rest of them were to disappear, "a surge of physical and biological changes would ripple through the landscape," Thorson wrote in the epilogue to "Exploring Stone Walls." Woodlands would blend together, soil erosion would increase, and billions of creatures would die, he wrote. What's more, we would have lost a part of who we are.

New England is a place, Thorson wrote, where "human activities are so thoroughly blended into the otherwise natural landscape that the distinction between them is moot and meaningless." Stone walls create, "a landscape in which history and natural history are one in the same."

Joe Rankin writes on forestry, nature and sustainability. He lives in Maine. The illustration for this column was drawn by Adelaide Tyrol. The Outside Story is assigned and edited by Northern Woodlands magazine, www.northernwoodlands.org, and sponsored by the Wellborn Ecology Fund of New Hampshire Charitable Foundation: wellborn@nhcf.org.


http://www.benningtonbanner.com/stories/stone-walls-are-a-habitat-all-their-own,534824

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The tip of the fork.


This is just a miniature model of the big 4x4 Gradual 534C Forward Reach ‘Forklift’ that Peter uses for lifting heavy rocks and pallets of stone material to our walling projects in Gualala. 

The bigger model has a huge 10,000 pound load capacity and a telescopic arm that reaches 40 feet straight out. It has 'Telehandler' levelling forks, and a levelling frame to stop it from tilting when perched on a grade. It has an impressive Cummins 3.9L 4 Cylinder Turbo Diesel engine and weighs in at 23,900 pounds.





The model looks pretty small next to the real thing.
Unlike the larger Gradual, it can only lift a few small stones.
That's because the toy model doesn't have as much weight.




 My little plastercine guy has to be careful extending the telescopic arm too far when he's lifting stones, if a pebble is too big the Gradual will start to tip over.