Rocks may not be living organisms, but they still are a vital part of the world we share. The natural world is slow-paced. Evolution, the water cycle, and the rock cycle are all slow moving systems that are in a constant, steady motion. Every inspiring waterfall, canyon, and mountain formed because nature let them come together slowly. This is an art that the environment has perfected. This same patience is rarely used in the human world. Every hour of every day is a rapid go, go, go. There’s deadlines to meet, places to be, and people to see. Individuals find it hard to step back and enjoy life at light speed. Instead of admiring the patience of the land, we seek profit from it. This is dangerous, not only for the land but for ourselves. Is there a balance that people can strike? Are humans able to experience Earth the way nature does without the need to exploit it for a profit? I believe so. One activity that attempts to reach this balance and admiration is rock stacking. Now I know what you’re thinking, “ how boring, who would want to stack rocks.” Rest assured, that is a fun way to emulate the art of patience that nature has utilized for millennia.
I began the activity of rock stacking after seeing the short film “Gravity Glue 2014”. See the film here. In the film the viewers see that Michael Grab has an uncanny ability to stack and conform rocks together to make a beautiful display. Rocks of all shapes and sizes are brought together, creating an artistic piece that requires the same slow patience needed to make the rocks. With this inspiring film in mind, I set on on my quest to create a beautiful rock display.
At first stacking the rocks was hard. It took many tries before I was able to build a stack that looked decent. While stacking these rocks I thought about how absurd it is that different rocks are seen as more valuable. Do diamonds and rocks really have any meaningful differences other than profitability? This idea is explored by author Edward Abbey in his book Desert Solitaire.
From pages 80 to 82 Abbey briefly describes a story of two men from Colorado and their quest for treasure. Their thirst for adventure and wealth left them lost in Cataract Canyon. The men split up and one nearly dies. After eating raw lizards in order to survive the nearly dead man is found. On page 82 Abbey writes, “ Hospitalized for exposure, shock and malnutrition, he urged that the entrance to Cataract Canyon be somehow chained off, closed forever to human exploration.” Is a near death experience what it will take for humans to leave nature undisturbed?
If people simply admired every aspect of nature without the need to extract wealth from it maybe we would again see the beauty in the art of the natural world. This is what rock stacking brought to me. It reinforced my view that every creation from the planet is valuable and should be equally admired. Our humanity is lost when we use the land as our resource to extract from. If we could see the immense time and patience it took to create what we readily destroy maybe our view on what’s valuable would change. The land above these “precious resources” would not be mined and forever altered if people simply saw that it’s presence is worth more than anything below. The section from the chapter described above and the activity of rock stacking is what allowed me to reflect on this idea. Nature is patient and the many terrains it creates took time to get there. This is very much like my experience of stacking rocks. The displays I made had to be formed with the same patience. Seeing nature in this light could change how we use the land. What brings individuals wealth will not be placed above the collective health of the world. The speed of humanity and the relative crawling pace of the natural world will strike that balance once land is not made to be a commodity.