We’d been walking along the shore of Lake Ontario,and stopped to watch the sailboats and drink some water.
A very nice lady saw us fooling with these rocks, and asked if we were professional artists, and if she could photograph our “stone stacking.”
It almost seemed like she was serious, so I told her, we artists prefer our creations to be called “Cobble Assemblages”. And that we’re novices, from the Spiral Jetty School, working our way up to pyramids and standing stone circles. No money is required to view them, but an offering of fresh fruit is appreciated.
We’ve run across them in stream beds, woods, parks, even on the berms near shopping malls.
Sometimes there are so many, it appears a Neolithic cult is out there in the woods.
What is the point of this? I’ve heard a lot of people take this pretty seriously, saying “it’s kind of a Zen thing,” finding the center of gravity of these eccentric objects, and easing you into a contemplative state.
OK. Sure, you bet.
That sounds “a bit much,” New Age nonsense, and the funny thing is, I think they’re kind of right.
This balancing act takes focus, maybe even discipline.
I’m thinking, as we gravely heft the rocks and find the center of gravity, it’s kind of like politics.
Whether a box of rocks, or the electorate, or that portion of the electorate that resembles a box of rocks, it takes an artist to find the center, to balance every component, including the unstable and unbalanced. This is rock stacking, kids, not mud slinging, not casting stones.
When you do this stacking thing, you don’t select only perfectly flat rocks, where’s the challenge in that?
To be a sportin’ proposition, you have to take ’em as you find ’em.
That’s not to say, that sometimes, you get frustrated, it’s just not working, and you just chunk it back into the water, to get a few rough edges knocked off, or it can swim back to Canada, and wait for the next glacier to bring it south again, a bit more polished.
Politics is also supposed to somehow build things, using all of us lumpy, uncooperative, odd people, being gathered together to build something, say, a city on the hill.
My sister sings while she gathers stones, and the music reminds me of an old metaphor used in politics — the “bandwagon,” and I’ve always liked that image – – a big, brassy, hurly-burly, rock ‘n’roll hell-on-wheels.
Like taking a bunch of kids on a car trip – – just an unholy load of mischief, usually loud, a bit smelly, arguments and sharp elbows, but after an eternity or two, you do get to the beach, and everybody pitches in to build some beautiful sandcastles, or, in our rocky part of the world, a cool stone stack.
Bandwagon or stone stack, it has to find a place for everybody — leaning left, leaning right, centrist, positive, negative, neutral.
Doesn’t that sound kind of fun? “Come on, blow your own horn if you must, but everybody up on the bandwagon.” (And in the case of many politicians, we can add “Stay on the wagon!”)
It has to be a big ol’ wagon. Not a buggy of the extreme and the angry. The surly with the lunatic fringe on top.
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We had a huge old car once, that kept turning over, even after it was switched off, mindlessly “dieseling,” kind of like it had a coughing jag, and couldn’t stop.
Like a lot of folks, I find it can be surprisingly hard to shut your thoughts off, like that old car, definitely not firing on all cylinders, but just spluttering along.
Like some of our public figures, the car was too greasy, too much carbon buildup, too much hot gas coming out the back end.
Missing filters, endless idling, running on and on, throwing a smoke screen, leaking oil into the ground water. Chugging along, backfiring out half-digested dinosaur crap.
Our system right now, it appears some wiseguy snuck in, and switched the spark plug wires around, firing all out of order.
Like taking a Cadillac, all rose-tinted glass and a plush ride, in for a tuneup, to a shady shadetree mechanic.
And that bad grease monkey fast-talks us into trading for a rusted-out Gremlin, with no muffler, twisted axis, sorry, I mean, axle, and bad tie rods, so it keeps swerving to the right, and into the gutter.
~ ~ ~
Stone stacking helps us relax. You focus and forget about squabbles and arguments.
And when you don’t focus, you drop a rock on your toe, which sure takes your mind off less pressing concerns.
Like politicking, we’re just childishly happy to shut down any higher brain functions, and see Just How High Can We Pile It, before it all falls over.
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Meanwhile… we were On The Beach. The lake shore we’re hiking along is a shingle — tons of piled-up pebbles, so we weren’t prying stones out of the ground and contributing to erosion, or disturbing a stream bed, etc. Sometimes it’s fun to poke at a few things with a stick, and see what crawls out from under a rock, but we’ve had quite enough of that lately.
A key thing with these stone stacks: they’re not cairns, memorials, or markers, so take them apart when you’re done. Some of the ones we’ve seen, are big enough, they seem like a survivalist’s deadfall trap for little kids.
It falls under the “Leave No Trace” law of the woods.
Leave no stone un-returned. And for heaven’s sake let’s get some bright new spark plugs and a tuneup for that heap.
A walk in the woods today, turned out to be a macrofungi field trip. Still very damp, even mucky in places, after getting eight inches of rain in recent weeks. All these pictures, with the exception of the second one, were taken within a few hundred feet of each other.
Some towns to our west, in Cayuga County, have had flooding recently. Eight inches of rain over two weeks, and the woods are filled with fungus. I know little of wild mushrooms, so no one should rush out to eat this on my say-so, but I think this is what the old folks call “sheepshead”. You can get an idea of size from the oak leaf in the top right corner, of the first photo. Kind of sloppy ground for walking, but also kind of neat. So many fungus, almost glowing in the dim woods, it struck me that a coral reef was taking root. While I was away last summer, there was a drought, and everyone reported on all the little streams that pretty much dried up, but they’re now going full tilt.
“Excelsior” is the motto of New York State, “Ever Upwards,” and this works for the glen.
A series of little waterfalls, the tallest is actually a thin cascade over one hundred feet tall.
First time I’ve hiked here. A few miles from the much better-known Watkins Glen, but this one isn’t a park.
The “entrance” or mouth of the glen is unmarked, and unattractive, a narrow opening next to a highway, so it doesn’t attract many people. But one minute’s walk and it’s quiet and picturesque – the tiny waterfalls are great.
There are two other issues, though.
One, there’s very definitely sulfur in them there hills, and the stream smells of it.
Two, it’s a good place to break your neck. Don’t bring children.
It’s private land, and hiking is allowed, but no real trail in parts, so it’s a scramble over slick, crumbling shale and clay. I’d advise real caution going up the stream bed, or along it, and normally I never say stuff like that. This is a very slippery place, and one member of my party, who was being careful, stepped on a root and went down a slope. Fast.
Luckily a two-inch sapling snagged her before she went over and hit the rocks, and nothing broken.
And just as important, she wasn’t carrying my camera, so everything was ok in the end. (Kidding!)
The Finger Lakes Trail passes close by, but it’s been routed away from the glen, and you won’t see most of the falls by staying on it. But if you’re very, very careful, and don’t mind a whiff of sulfur, the falls are really nice.