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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Rock Art

Posted by Rick | September 20th, 2006 | Filed under Outdoor Sport, Personal Reflection

Rock_Drawing.pngI was at the beach the other day when I found this rock among the thousands of cobblestones bordering the high tide line. It was early. The rock was approximately two feet across, weighing roughly 30 pounds. Obviously, a beachgoer with an artistic bent used the smooth stone as a natural drawing surface and had done an impressive job capturing the previous night’s full moon over corduroy lines of swell. For drawing materials, the artist employed red and orange dirt from a nearby cliff, charcoal from a burnt piece of driftwood, and other rocks to scratch white highlights: a sparkling sea and cracking surf.

My first thought upon making the discovery was, “Wow, had the waves been that good?â€? But my second thought was that I wanted to take the rock home. I considered the feasibility of hauling it up the mile-long hike to my car, along with my surfboard and gear. I imagined placing the stone near a piece of driftwood in front of my fireplace. It would make a nice doorstop as well. Racking my brain, I wondered if I still had an old can of fixative from art school to preserve the work.

By this time, another surfer had come up beside me and was admiring the rock over my shoulder. I explained that the drawing was completely natural, created from the environment. “Pretty cool, huh?â€? I said. He seemed impressed and called some of his friends over.

It wasn’t long before small group had formed around the creation and as they congregated, I stepped aside and began pulling my wetsuit on. I thought about Andy Goldsworthy’s nature installations and his theories about the impermanence of art. Would the person who did this want me to take it away? It seemed obvious that this rock belonged just where I found it, and with the unusually high tide predicted, it would be gone in a few hours anyway.

What would you have done?

7 Responses to “Rock Art”

  • September 20, 2006 at 9:56 pm | jil says

    I would have done precisely what you did — been tempted to hold the beauty of the piece in my hands and take it home with me but in the end, left it where it is. Some art is most powerful right where it’s created; taking it out of its creative context dimishes it. This seems especially true with pieces made of natural materials. My daughter once asked, when she was two years old, what rocks are for. I recalled that some traditions believe rocks hold memory. I’d like to think that the rock art you found on the beach did just that — held the memory of moon on the beach that night, the artists’ appreciation of the scene, your wonder at finding it there, and a few million years’ worth of other events. The high tide may have washed away the well-placed dirt and charcoal on its surface but it didn’t wash away the millions of years of evolution it continues to hold, or the steady gaze of an admiring few.

  • September 21, 2006 at 2:30 pm | joan says

    I would have felt, thought and acted in a similar fashion. I would have wanted to have the rock, because of its uniqueness, beauty and meaning, and because I’m still attached to the concept of ownership. However, I would have quickly considered what the artist(s) intended and what the impact of taking the stone away would be. Not wanting to deprive others of the potential discovery and confrontation with self, I would choose to do no harm. Slowly my heart, mind and spirit would align. I’d inhale the image deeply into my being and be pleased to record what I could with a camera, just as you did, Rick. I’d happily walk my own path again, without the stone.

    Perhaps I would select a small pebble for my pocket, to remind me whenever I touch it. The tiny “insignificant” rock would then become special to me, signaling to me to treat the world with reverence. My senses are my surest source of knowledge and I rely on them to keep me from being too confused by the chatter in my head. Among my books are pine cones, seeds, leaves, rocks, a feather, flowers, always flowers… All of them my teachers.

    I see the artist(s) gift as metaphoric for many of our experiences of nature. Nature is awesome, yet we must leave it where we experience it. We can’t take a red sun and sky with us. We must leave the sounds, movement, scent, cold spray and vast expanse of the ocean where it is. Trees will wave hello and good-bye to us. Birds will capture our attention, but they’ll keep us in sight longer than we hold them in view. The earth beneath our feet will be there eons after we’re gone. Yet what I sense is mine, if I take it into my being, and am changed by the experience, hopefully for the better.

    Thanks for sharing the stone, Rick.

  • September 22, 2006 at 3:07 am | Thinkerer says

    You did take the rock’s image and beauty away with you — these things are much lighter to carry.

  • September 22, 2006 at 9:28 am | Rick says

    Thanks for the great comments. Your thoughts are not only in line with my reasoning for leaving the stone behind, but also gave me more to ponder.

    I like the idea that rocks can hold memories, even if they are not literally etched on the surface. The integrity of objects like stones and the fact that they will be here far longer than we will always makes me feel rather insignificant, in the grand scheme of things. And I like that feeling of “just passing through.” It gives me more reason to leave things as they are.

    That being said, like Joan, I’ve been known to bring small keepsakes home from nature. I’ve always wondered what the harm was in taking a piece of driftwood from the beach, or a small rock, or a few sea shells. There are beaches that have signs posted telling you not to. On the other hand, bonfires are perfectly legal on most Oregon beaches. So are they saying it’s okay to burn wood, but not okay to take it away? Believe me, when I find a fire on the sand after a three-hour surf session in icy water, I do appreciate the State Parks’ tolerance toward burning driftwood.

    But this might be a subject for another blog entry…

  • September 28, 2006 at 11:30 am | MayDay says

    Normally, I would probably want to take the rock home. However, you made me see that the beautiful rock belongs to the beach and not in my bathroom!

  • September 28, 2006 at 1:54 pm | k says

    if anyone wants to see it in person, 5 BUCKS

  • [...] we first launched the Thought Kitchen, I had this idea that I would bring a little garbage home from the beach every time I surfed until [...]

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