Monthly Archives: August 2010

balancing rocks

For months now I’ve been seeing rocks stacked three or four high on my way to the gym, which is located in a suburban mall. The first time I saw the rocks I was with my daughter and I brought the car to a screeching halt and said, “Would you look at that!” There were about five or six little rock towers on the rocky verge of the road where the mall had dumped tons of rounded and semi-angular rocks about the size of my head.  

As we drove on to the gym I posited my theory on who created them. I was sure it was either someone who worked at the Borders bookstore coming in early or perhaps an Asian student who lived in an adjacent apartment complex. My daughter thought the Asian comment was not politically correct and then we got into a long discussion about language and dropped the mystery of the rock towers.

Since then, every time I drove to the gym I took the long way round the mall just so I could pass the rock towers. Sometimes there were none and I was surprised at how disappointed I was when that was the case. Often there were just one or two standing and I made it a habit to carry my camera so I could take pictures of them. I tried to go early enough so that I wouldn’t have to contend with much traffic on the mall road because I wanted to take close-ups that faked you out and made you believe that these towers were set on the edge of a field or somewhere in nature. That meant squatting in the middle of the road and shooting them at a low angle and getting close enough so that the road, the culvert, and the highway beyond the little stand of trees wouldn’t be visible in the photograph.

They were so perfect. So balanced. Sometimes point to point. Sometimes smaller stones were nestled into larger ones.  Sometimes a larger stone was impossibly perched atop a smaller one. I loved both the predictability and the uncertainty of the exercise. If they balanced, they balanced. If they didn’t, they didn’t. And the ephemeral quality of the perched rocks was somehow thrilling. On the way to the gym I might see four towers, and on the way back, I’d see none.

Ultimately it was the weird dichotomy of the rock towers and the implicit serenity set on the edge of a mall parking lot that really spoke to me. You’d expect to find something like this on a beach or maybe a river bed but a mall parking lot? And it made me think the builder had quite a sense of humor. (click here to read the rest of this piece on YourLifeIsATrip)

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green burial piece of mine on salon.com

Looking for a Greener Kind of  Death:

As Americans get savvier about environmental consequences, why aren’t they embracing natural burial?

There was a naked body wrapped in yards and yards of unbleached muslin perched over an open grave, and Mary Woodsen was speeding to get there. An early spring snowfall had dumped 2 feet of wet snow on Irish Hill making the going tough, but as founder of the cemetery Mary had been there many times before. The car swerved all over the road. She knew it was a fine line between spinning out and reaching the summit.

Tiffani Jones (name changed) was being buried today. A 43-year-old woman with brain, kidney, liver and spinal cancer. Her body finally gave out, and her mother wanted her buried up on the hill. Mary was glad Tiffani was local — from the hardscrabble village at the base of the hill — because after five years, she was a little tired of Greensprings being seen as a groovy, hippie alternative to traditional burial. From all accounts Tiffani was a hard-drinking, hard-partying woman and many of her mourners were cut from that same cloth. They stood shivering in thin leather jackets pulled tight around their bodies while the wind blew, making it seem colder than 28 degrees.

Everyone stood and stared at Tiffani’s body above the open grave. Mary stood back. Planting bodies in the ground made sense to Mary. She thought about how the body breaks down and feeds nutrients into the soil, and as she stood there, she could imagine Tiffani’s body one day feeding all of the meadow grasses that lay under the snow. This is death broken down to molecules; to carbon and nitrogen and calcium. Tiffani will feed the meadow. [click here to keep reading . . .]

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