My neighborhood, as I’ve mentioned, is an interesting place: At our weekly potlucks, we speculate on everything from the number and sex of the next batch of goat kids (money’s on two girls) to the efficacy of bourbon as mouthwash (not promising, sadly). Last week, a guest announced that he was on his way to a stone-balancing celebration in Flagstaff, Arizona. Was this a competition, we asked? No. Just a bunch of people stacking stones? Well, yes, but it’s more fun than it sounds. Do you leave the stacks for other people to find? Yup.
“Just Google it,” he finally said, giving us a beatific smile.
So I did, and found that yes, a bunch of people gathered in Flagstaff this past Sunday to stack stones. It seems to be habit-forming: this was the third international gathering of stone balancers, and balancers have even written an “Art Manifesto of Stone Balance” with ethical guidelines. (No glue, no bolts, no wires. Just gravity.) For some, such as artists Adrian Gray and Andy Goldsworthy, stone balancing is high art. For others, it’s a meditative practice or just a prankish pastime, a puzzle left on a beach or beside a trail for others to find. Some sculptures resemble people, sailboats, bridges, or birds; others are free-form. Some are “pure balance” sculptures, with each rock balanced in line with its center of gravity. Other sculptures use counterbalance.
Rock balancers seem to have a refreshing resistance to philosophizing: Bill Dan, an Indonesian-born rock balancer in San Francisco, says, “Some people try to make things too complicated. This is the opposite.”
I have to admit, I’m entranced by these sculptures. Their balance is soothing, but their improbability is exciting: When is that thing going to fall over? How close can I get before it does? They make me feel calm and alert, peaceful and vigilant … all sensations I wish I could bottle and take to work with me.
As the next best thing, here are a few photos to enjoy on a Monday morning: