Contemplative Photography & Reflections

Category: Stone Balance Art

Found on the Sunshine Coast

Found on the Sunshine Coast

Have you ever gone on a trip that left you feeling fundamentally different than you were before you embarked on it? A real life changer? Well, that’s what spending nearly two weeks with relatives on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia did for me—and I am excited to write about it!

I met my great-uncle Ralph and great-aunt June in person for the first time more than ten years ago when they visited the East coast. I recognized them instantly as kindred spirits and felt a deep connection with them. (They even founded a Waldorf school in North Vancouver!) Not long after their visit, they sent me the 2005 Sunshine Coast Tourist Guide, with lots of handwritten comments about places that were meaningful to them. I held onto that guide with intentions to visit their home in Sechelt (the heart of the Sunshine Coast off of Vancouver) someday. In recent months, my intuition told me it was time to make “someday” happen. Visiting them was one of the top items on my list of “100 Things to Do” this year.

My dad and I began talking about making a trip to Vancouver together. A health condition was making it more difficult for him to get around, and I felt it was important to make the trip sooner rather than later. We also had been talking about driving to Virginia to visit his sister, who had been ill for quite some time. At the end of January, she passed away unexpectedly. Unfortunately, we didn’t make that trip in time, and that made it seem even more important to follow through with the Vancouver trip. We renewed our passports and came up with specific dates for our trip. When it came time to make flight reservations, my dad had second thoughts and eventually told me he thought the trip would be too much for him. But he still wanted me to go, so we booked my flights, and I prepared to make the trip on my own.

In the days leading up to the trip, I felt I was making some real progress excavating and releasing limiting beliefs that had circumscribed my life for as long as I can remember. But I still felt stuck and unsure about how to proceed. Intuitively, I knew there was something for me in the Vancouver area. Something important. I could feel it, even though I didn’t yet know what it was, other than that it was the next step.

It turns out a great deal was waiting for me there. At least three journeys took place simultaneously: an exploration of the area’s unsurpassed natural beauty, connecting with my ancestral and family tribe, and a very deep spiritual journey.

Natural Beauty

I had wanted to travel to the Sunshine Coast off of Vancouver for a long time, and it was every bit as breathtaking as I anticipated. To get to Sechelt (SEE-shelt) from Vancouver, I took a 20-minute flight in a tiny float plane that could accommodate up to five passengers. The woman sitting next to me was excited to point out landmarks and tell me about the magnificent terrain on which she lived her whole life.

Mountain Landscape

The coastal landscape, dotted with islands and lined with snowcapped mountains in the distance, provided sharp visual contrast to the temperate rainforest featuring moss-covered trees (including broadleaf maple, red cedar, hemlock, and Douglas fir), ferns and mosses, and so much lush vegetation.

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During my stay, I went kayaking three times—my first experiences paddling in salty, ocean water and in kayaks equipped with a rudder (which is actually quite metaphoric). We paddled by herds of seals, at least one sea lion, great blue herons, and bald eagles.

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On different outings, we toured the Coast from Roberts Creek to Egmont, stopping to appreciate the sights and scenery along the way. One afternoon, June and I took a long hike on the rainforest trail through Skookumchuck Provincial Park to view the rapids during ebb tide.

Skookumchuck Rapids

My soul mate of a cousin, Paul, whisked me away a couple of times to catch some glorious sunsets and moonrises.

Davis Bay Sunset Kayaker

Pacific Moonrise

We also explored the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden (where June and Ralph have their own bench) and spent an afternoon motoring around Thormanby Island and Smuggler Cove on Paul’s future in-laws’ 68-foot yacht—a very special treat.

One pattern that stood out was the residents’ positive, grateful energy. I read that the Sunshine Coast boasts the highest per-capita number of artists, artisans, and crafters in Canada and is also home to a great many writers, nature lovers, and alternative healers. It was like moving from one paradise to another the whole time. And unbelievably, the inner journey was even more astonishing than the outer one.

Ancestral/Family Connection

It didn’t take long to figure out why I needed to make this trip. I needed to connect with my only Pacific Northwest relatives to learn where I came from ancestrally and where I fit in, in relation to my family tree. I discovered that I am part of an extended family of multipotentialites extraordinaire: artists, musicians, writers, and sharp minds. Through the years, I had heard anecdotes of my (mostly European) relatives’ talents, but seeing actual works of art, hearing recordings, and holding writing collections in my hands brought the stories to life and made them more tangible and real. Until recently, Ralph (an architect, writer, painter, and athlete) had been the keeper of the family tree, and when we sat down and looked at it, it seemed everyone he spoke of had at least one jaw-dropping creative talent in addition to whatever else s/he did. I felt like I had found my real tribe and realized that I am part of something larger that I didn’t grasp until now. I finally understood the source and value of my creative and artistic passions that didn’t seem to make sense in the nuclear family I was born into. Artistic expression and creativity are hardwired into my DNA!

I woke up every morning in a room decorated with framed prints of Ralph’s watercolor and acrylic paintings, listened to him read some of his poetry and prose in the evening after dinner, conversed with June about our shared values with regard to developmentally appropriate and inspired early childhood education, took in the extraordinary beauty and magical details of their gardens, and dined on organic fruits and vegetables (some from the garden) and delicious meals, including the most scrumptious coconut yogurt (Liberté Méditerranée) I’ve ever tasted. And so much more.

Ralph June Garden

At 85 and 80, respectively, Ralph and June love kayaking every bit as much as I do (though they have been doing it MUCH longer). Although quintuple bypass surgery a few years ago put a damper on Ralph’s physical activity, I was inspired by how active, fit, and engaged they are at their age and how they took action to create what they wanted, whether it be a Waldorf school or an indoor tennis facility. I just wanted to absorb their positive energy and lifestyle!

It also was wonderful to finally meet two of my three Canadian cousins (technically, my dad’s cousins), who are my age. Paul and I bonded instantly and spoke a common spiritual language that allowed us to communicate on a deep level. I was grateful for opportunities to spend time with him, his fiancée, and her parents throughout my stay. Caroline flew in from Vancouver Island for a few hours, during which time we went kayaking around the Trail Islands in the Strait of Georgia, talking the entire time. I wish I could have stayed longer and visited her on Vancouver Island. Their younger sister, Sonia, who lives in Alberta, was too far away to connect in person, but I spoke with her on the phone. We also called relatives in England, including cousin Bryan (current keeper of the family tree) and Ralph’s (and my deceased grandfather’s) only living sibling, 93-year old Ron, an accomplished pianist and organist (amongst other things). It was such a delight to connect with each of them and bring to life some of the names on the family tree.

One night, it was rainy and cool, and June insisted on sending me to bed with a hot water bottle to keep me nice and toasty. As I appreciated both the heavenly warmth and the kindness of the gesture, it occurred to me that it was the first time I have felt mothered in a long time. I fell asleep with tears of gratitude still moist on my face.

Spiritual Journey

The second morning of my vacation, I discovered the path that leads to the beach, only a five-minute walk from the house. I spent two or three hours at the rocky beach every morning for the rest of my stay. It was very rare to see another person on the beach, so it was my own private sanctuary, where the spiritual part of my journey unfolded.

I had two special places on the beach. The first was my stone balance workshop by the sea, between two logs. I searched the beach for interesting stones and lined them up on one of the logs for later use. Someone had placed a rock that looked like a cradle on the log, and I used it as the base for many of my stone balances. Balancing rocks by the sea is one of my very favorite meditative activities.

Balance by the Sea

My second special place on the beach was under an arbutus tree (my new favorite tree) that grew out of a rock formation.

Arbutus by the Sea

Surrounding the arbutus tree were several wild, pink nootka rosebushes in full bloom, which expressed an intoxicating fragrance into the air.

Nootka Roses

From my arbutus tree sanctuary, I’d often see great blue herons at the water’s edge and hear the gentle, soothing rhythm of waves lapping the shore. Here, I worked on my feng shui vision board, reflecting and envisioning what I wish to manifest in different areas of life. As the moon grew fuller, my vision board insights and clarity deepened. Being on the Sunshine Coast, so far from home with “my people,” helped me to see my life back East from a different perspective. Removed from my daily routine, I was stunned by ways in which I’ve compromised and sold myself short by playing it safe. I came to the realization that there is perhaps nothing riskier in life than playing it safe. But rather than feeling discouraged, I experienced clarity about what I do and don’t want in my life moving forward, including what kind of energy I want to surround myself with.

I had a profound experience walking the 11-circuit, Chartres-style labyrinth outside St. Hilda’s by the Sea (Anglican church) one warm, sunny afternoon. Again, there was nobody else around. When I arrived at the center, an inner voice asked: Are you ready to give up the path of suffering? Are you ready to walk the path of joy? Are you really ready to let go of suffering? I answered yes. Yes, I’m ready! (I understood suffering to mean the internal reactions that set in motion outer circumstances and events.) Then I looked up and saw a rainbow around the sun and experienced a deep sense of peace.

As I walked on the winding path back out of the labyrinth, I realized that as long as I act from love, all will be well. When I allow ego to take the wheel, it never seems to work out. Also, if I feel bad about myself for not accomplishing more or for the paths I chose and the choices I made, that’s ego. Good/bad, right/wrong, and better than are the vocabulary of ego, not Higher Self. Instead of making judgments and comparisons, Higher Self is love that seeks expansion. When you’re aligned with Higher Self, you intuitively know what to do and not do. It’s like a divine GPS that will save you time rather than take you the long, roundabout route. It doesn’t mean that when you don’t follow it, you’re wrong or somehow doomed. You’ll eventually get to your destination. It just might take longer. You might experience more drama and unanticipated traffic setbacks along the way. Somehow your divine GPS knows where the obstructions are and reroutes you to a clearer, more direct path. But if you choose to go a different way that ends up taking longer, it’s ultimately okay because the Higher Self exists beyond time. So there’s no need to regret what could be perceived as wasted time or poor choices. Better to tune into intuition and focus on the road ahead rather than get mired in regret.

These labyrinths insights bathed me in peace. When I exited the labyrinth, I retrieved my camera to take a photo of the rainbow. As I composed the photo, two seagulls flew through the frame. It was a moment.

Rainbow Seagulls

I had an incredible experience on the beach my last morning on the Sunshine Coast, when the moon was full. After doing my vision board work, I decided to do a final rock balance before leaving the beach. When I first arrived that morning, I’d found a rock whose shape was in between a crescent and half-moon and intended to balance it later. So I brought it back to the rock cradle and decided to put a round stone underneath it for an extra challenge. The round stone was so wobbly on the cradle, and the weight of the moon-shaped rock was so unevenly distributed. But I set my mind to it and decided I wanted to do something that seemed impossible, to prove to myself that I could do it, and I never doubted my ability to balance the stones. As I worked with the stones, I recalled my cousin, Paul, telling me that he no longer fears challenges because he sees them as opportunities to discover what he is capable of. It took a while, but all of a sudden, I felt the stones shifting into alignment, and then they clicked into balance! The moment that happened, I cried tears of joy and fulfillment because I accomplished what seemed impossible— because I believed I could and didn’t give up. I immediately texted Paul to share my success, knowing he’d understand.

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That balance inspired me to expand my ideas about what is possible. Dream big. Pursue bigger, bolder goals, and remember the excitement, satisfaction, joy, and gratitude I felt the moment those stones clicked into balance (and remained balanced!). I don’t want to get to the end of my life only to learn that the silver slippers could have brought me home at any time—that I had the power all along. I want to manifest during this lifetime and discover what I can do. And a big part of that is having an unwavering faith that I will succeed, acting on intuition, and having the patience to see it through.

I’m shifting out of a defeatist, poverty attitude, and it is the most miraculous shift of my life. I used to be like Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory receiving his birthday chocolate bar and savoring it for as long as he possibly could because he knew he wouldn’t get another candy bar until his next birthday. An impoverished gratitude. What I’m cultivating is a sense of exploration and adventure. I’ve been traveling more since my mom died two years ago and consider traveling a great metaphor. It’s about having gratitude for where you are now but not clinging to it because you expect to experience all kinds of new wonders, beauty, and joy by traveling to places you haven’t been before. Places that will delight, challenge, and expand you.

Returning Home

After a phenomenal and life-changing visit to the B.C. Sunshine Coast, I flew home that night on moonbeams to a place of fireflies, splendid autumn foliage, and really good spring water, where the intoxicating fragrance of the last, lingering lilacs greeted me the moment I got out of the car. I returned home with renewed energy for creating a shining life.

My great-aunt June told me that she went to my stone balance workshop by the sea after I left and felt my presence there. She said I left a piece of myself there, and that makes me happy. But ironically, even though part of me remains on the Sunshine Coast and surely will call me back there, I returned home feeling more whole and complete than ever—for on the Sunshine Coast, with my tribe, I found my missing pieces and know that my life will never be the same.

To view more of my photos from the Sunshine Coast, click on the image below:

Sunset Paddler at Davis Bay

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The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2016. SHARING IS CARING, and I appreciate my work being shared with others! Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. In other words, I put my heart and soul into my writing and photography and want to be credited for it and have some traffic sent my way. It’s the high vibration thing to do!  🙂 

A Difficult Rock

A Difficult Rock

There is a place on the Battenkill (river) where I spent a lot of time during the winter. Little did I know that it overlooked a prime spot for balancing rocks! A narrow, rocky island was visible through the winter, but I didn’t realize it was accessible, public land.

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The Battenkill roared along all winter long with such velocity that I couldn’t imagine attempting to cross to the island. But now it’s late spring. The water level is lower, and the river bubbles along peacefully. It’s safe to cross to the incredibly beautiful, peaceful spot that is literally in the back yard of the private property to which I had access .

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I go to the river often and sit in the center with my feet in the water to learn what the rocks can teach me about balance. The harmony of all the sounds – the rooster crowing, the children playing, the birds singing, the river flowing – soothe the soul and make me grateful to be a small part of it all.

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Most recently, I spent about 45 minutes focusing on a single rock. It was reddish and very bulky and nearly came to a needlepoint at the tip on which I wanted to balance it. It felt like a rock that couldn’t possibly be balanced. But I believed I could do it and wanted to prove to myself that what looked and felt impossible was actually within the realm of possibility. I found that rock intriguing and believed in its potential for balance. In my mind’s eye, I already could see it balanced and knew it was lovely and worth the effort.

One thing I appreciate about the practice of stone balance art is that my most dominant sense (sight) is not particularly useful during the actual process of balancing. I need to rely primarily on my sense of touch, which gives me the opportunity to further develop it. I work with attention and gratitude as the river sings its song of change and flow; the rocks whisper of stillness; and my heart, mind, body, and spirit fall into alignment in deep and harmonious collaboration with nature.

After about 35 minutes of trying to balance this one rock, I started to wonder: What’s the point? Why would I want to spend my time trying to balance this rock if it’s that hard to balance? Well, the point was to show that I could do what seemed impossible – what I put my mind to. To help the rock experience the balance it seemed to long for when I held it in my hands. It eventually did click into balance, and it was gratifying.

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The large, red rock remained balanced long enough to photograph it. It was a windy day, so conditions weren’t ideal for keeping the rock in a state of equilibrium. After it fell, I picked it up to rebalance it. However, after a few seconds, I felt that familiar, lopsided heaviness and decided to let it be. I’d already gone through so much trying to work with this challenging rock and get it in balance. Why go through that again? Why not move on to a different rock that’s not so difficult?

And so I did. I imagine many people would consider it a waste of time to focus so intently on that one rock. When I work with other stone balance artists, they tend to put up many more balances than I do in the same amount of time. But I don’t regret the time or the full attention I gave to that rock. While I connected with its energy, the hypnotic sound of the flowing river carried me into deeper connection with the life energies around and within me. My state of mind was elevated to a place of peace and equanimity that transported me beyond the habitual preoccupation with thought, where stillness and wisdom speak. For a brief eternity, I was in perfect harmony with that bulky, red rock, and it was wonderful.  And I learned a lot by working so intimately with its unique properties.

And then I moved on to heart-shaped rocks, for they had something to teach me, too – and stayed balanced longer!

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Every rock has something to teach, if you care to listen. And so I go to the river every chance I get, to learn from the rocks as the river sings its song.

The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Take Me to the River

Take Me to the River

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

A few mornings ago, I experienced the worst case of anxiety I’ve ever experienced in my life. Overcome by what felt like an impenetrable sense of loss, I couldn’t stand the thought of being alone with myself. It felt like I needed other people to complete me and was really disturbing – especially since, in the vein of Henry David Thoreau, I am someone who normally craves solitude! There was so much energy coursing through my body, and I was about to spend several hours in a mindfulness group retreat. I felt compelled to exercise beforehand to release the energy because if I didn’t, it would be impossible for me to wind down and meditate during the retreat. So I exercised but still felt tremendously agitated. Desperate for a remedy or some kind of guidance, I took out my deck of Universal Cards, closed my eyes, and chose a card: WATER. Alas. Not the epiphany I was looking for.

An energetic shift began early on during the mindfulness retreat, which consisted of a beginning meditation followed by outdoor walking meditation, yoga, mindful eating, seated meditation, and group activities that involved eye contact and physical touch. Participants were expected to maintain silence and keep our eyes softly averted from everyone else during all but the final hour of the retreat. Amazingly, I was able to regain a calm, spacious state of mind by the time walking meditation was over!

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As the day progressed, the sensation of relaxation only deepened. I never would have imagined this would be possible given where I started!

Immediately following the retreat, I spent 2 1/2 hours kayaking on the creek, which transported me even deeper into gratitude and serenity.

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The natural symphony of the creek was hypnotic and soothing.

Every day since, I have spent a couple of hours after work either kayaking on the creek or balancing stones on the Battenkill River, where I spent a lot of time over the winter.

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I’ve been making a beeline from work to either the creek or the river. It’s a blessing to have something to look forward to, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect!

Floating on the creek is the deepest therapy imaginable. Among the red-winged blackbirds, painted turtles, and nesting geese, I feel like myself again: spacious and buoyant. Steeped in harmony and reverence, I feel completely interconnected and at one with life.

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My body smiles. In the pit of my stomach, there’s such delight. It’s an expansive feeling, which is in glorious contrast to the stabbing, contracted feeling of not being in harmony with the energy around you – the sinking, shrinking feeling. The natural energies of the creek environment uplift me and raise my vibration. The trees and wildlife make no demands. When I feel like paddling, I paddle. When I feel like floating, I float. When I feel like observing turtles, I inevitably hear the sound of them plopping into the water, no matter how carefully I approach them.

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Another great thing about the creek is that cell reception is spotty, so I can’t receive messages or phone calls in many areas. That helps me to break free from the tug of technology and enter the spaces where I feel complete and connected in a deeper sense and realize that I have everything I need to navigate  this human existence. I perceive life’s challenges from a higher vantage point and am profoundly at peace. I bring my phone with me nonetheless to make voice recordings when insights arise. Listening to the recordings later brings me back to the peaceful, spacious space.

Today I decided to balance rocks on the river rather than float on the creek.

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Originally, I had intended to do both but became absorbed in the meditative nature of stone balance art, and the next thing I knew, two hours had passed. Balancing stones with my feet in the Battenkill, listening to the sound of the river flowing was every bit as relaxing and therapeutic as kayaking, only different. On the creek, insights tend to arise when I enter stillness, whereas balancing stones facilitates focus and balance.

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If there’s anything that throws me off balance, it’s the fearful belief that there is no safety net and nothing supporting me. But on the creek, that seems to be the greatest delusion of all, and I remember that I must be a fastidious caretaker of my thoughts because they create my reality. Perhaps the sensation of being supported by the water is ultimately what is so appealing about floating.

In hindsight, the WATER card probably was the best guidance I could have received that morning when I was overcome by anxiety. It was the road map back to where I want and need to be. I feel like a sun that is shining again – and that benefits everyone around me.

The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Schoolhouse Rocks

Schoolhouse Rocks

It was an awesome day in kindergarten. I couldn’t hold out any longer. Today was the day to introduce the youngest generation to stone balance art. I didn’t plan to do it. But all of a sudden, the moment felt right, and I seized it. I use humor a lot in my teaching and have a running joke with my students that when they don’t follow our rules and make it difficult for me to do my job, I sometimes start dreaming about becoming a princess or a rock star. This morning, I decided to explain what I mean by “rock star.”

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During our Morning Meeting, I turned on the SMART Board, opened my Flickr album of Stone Balance Art, and showed them some of my balances. They started oohing and ahhing and wondered how I was able to balance the rocks so precariously. They were amazed to learn that stones they assumed must have fallen immediately remained balanced for a couple days. Then we sat in a circle on the carpet, and I took out my basket of beach rocks.

I explained that the rock basket is our newest indoor play center and that they can either arrange, stack, or (if they want a real challenge) balance rocks. Then I demonstrated each, beginning with arranging rocks in a spiral pattern – for arranging is about lining up stones to make shapes, patterns, or pictures. I also showed them how to stack the rocks by laying them flat, one on top of the other like a tower. Finally, I modeled how to concentrate on balancing stones on their ends and then ever so carefully placing more stones on top.

A couple basic ground rules to begin with were:

  1. No throwing rocks.
  2. Be careful not to knock down anyone’s rocks.

I also explained that rocks will fall, and that’s okay. Just start over again, and it will be even better the second time. When the rocks fall, it means you were trying something difficult and learning what does and doesn’t work. No big deal. I explained that eventually all of the balances I photographed fell down but that pictures make them last forever – and that if they create a balance they are proud of, I will photograph it and put it on our class website.

What I didn’t tell them is that every time you try to balance rocks and they topple before you’re done, you have a golden opportunity to transform failure into resilience. Every time you choose to keep trying, you strengthen your resilience response, and that is one of the most crucial life skills you could develop in any classroom. Failure is permanent only when you stop trying as a result. Learning to fail without giving up is essential practice for life.

When it was playtime at the end of the day, a number of students went straight for the rocks. They got right to work and within minutes approached me with great excitement and asked me to come see what they had made.

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I was every bit as excited as they were. After taking a few pictures, I invited them over to my computer to look at what other stone balance artists have created. We explored the portfolio on Michael Grab’s Gravity Glue website, and they were blown away. They seemed so interested and excited, asked questions, and commented on what they liked most about the pictures. There are so many talented members of the international stone balancing community, and I intend to expose my students to a variety of artists and styles, to inspire their creativity.

They returned to their work and called me over a few more times to see and photograph their stone art.

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Genuinely thrilled, I complimented their work. They seemed so proud. They were beaming. They worked cooperatively, and everyone was careful not to knock over anyone’s stones.

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At dismissal time, as I walked the children to their buses, one boy who had called me over several times to see his stone art looked up at me and announced, “I’m going to miss you.” I told him that I will miss him, too, but we will see each other in the morning. But I understood what he really was trying to say: Thank you for noticing and valuing me. He felt good about himself. Every year during our Open House night, I tell parents that although my job is to teach the Common Core curriculum, my overarching objective is to help their children feel good about themselves and love coming to school. For that little boy, balancing stones served that purpose today.

For some it is art. For others, music or sports. The list goes on. As an early childhood educator, it’s the best feeling in the world to see a child light up with pride and passion. Ideally, my role is to provide the materials and a dose of inspiration and then stand back and and allow their natural curiosity and creativity to lead the way and amaze me. The best days in my classroom are the days when I’m able to create the space and time to be truly amazed.

The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Narragansett Rocks

Narragansett Rocks

Several people have expressed interest in rock balancing, so I decided to do a separate post on balancing rocks in Narragansett.

My husband and I have very different styles. He is a performer (a professional musician) and doesn’t mind balancing rocks where there are lots of people around to interact with. He tends to create a lot of balances in a short amount of time…and keeps going! And he doesn’t mind working in the intense heat of the midday, summer sun.

I, on the other hand, prefer to retreat to a more private, picturesque spot and make it a meditation, thinking photographically. My balances are smaller and simpler than his, but I find beauty within the simplicity.

It’s all good.

At Scarborough Beach on our first day of vacation, I wandered off to adjacent Black Point to explore the tidal pools and found the perfect, quiet spot to balance rocks.

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By the time I returned to the beach, Jack had created more balances than I could count and was attracting a lot of attention. Most everyone who walked by stopped to take pictures. As we began to pack up at the end of the day, a boy who appeared to be about 12 years old came along with his mother, siblings (I’m guessing), and a long stick. I watched him wind up, wondering if he’d dare to follow through, and then – smack! – he knocked down one of Jack’s balances. When his mother realized the artist was close by and had witnessed the act of destruction, she apologized and promised her son would put the rocks back like they were. We had to laugh because that wasn’t possible; it takes skill and practice! We’d always wondered who was responsible for knocking down rock balances, and now we had the answer: Boys with sticks!

The next morning, I got up at dawn to experience and photograph the sunrise over the ocean. Then I headed back to Black Point and found three of my five balances still standing on the rim of a tidal pool.

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I walked back to the beach to see which of Jack’s balances lasted through the night.

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On my way back to the car, I stopped to fully savor the waves crashing against the rocks and created a few more simple balances. The sound of crickets accompanied the sound of the waves in a soothing, coastal symphony. The rhythmic sounds and aromatic ocean air, along with the feel of the wind against my skin and the rocks in my hands – all within such a magnificent landscape – was a wonderful sensory experience. To awaken so many senses simultaneously is to feel truly alive!

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Later in the day, we headed to Point Judith to balance more rocks. Here are a couple of mine:

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And here are some of Jack’s. (He created many more balances that were difficult to photograph due to their angle relative to the ocean and sun.)

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Looking toward the lighthouse, we noticed some rock balances and before leaving took a walk to check them out. We were astonished to find easily upwards of 500 rock stacks, balances, and arrangements! I couldn’t capture an image that illustrates the sheer number of balances or the vastness of the area. It was nearly overwhelming to be in the midst of it!

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The next morning, I woke up bright and early and went to the same spot as the previous morning to view the sunrise. Then I walked along the rock jetty opposite the lighthouse and was drawn to a quiet spot to balance rocks as waves crashed against the jetty and onto the beach. I can say without hyperbole that I’ve never felt more in my element than when balancing rocks at sunrise at the ocean in complete solitude (although kayaking and playing piano under the right circumstances come close). I love how simple balances look with waves crashing around them. Something about that really speaks to me of achieving balance within the “full catastrophe” of life, to borrow a phrase from Jon Kabat-Zinn. I played around with the same base rock and different combinations and angles on top.

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Meanwhile, Jack prepared to head to a beach very close to the house where he had balanced lots of rocks the previous day. He found them still standing and noticed kids approaching them to knock them down. However, older people intervened to protect the rocks and thanked him for beautifying their beach with art.

The temporary and vulnerable nature of balanced rocks is part of its appeal, in my opinion, for it mirrors the transitory nature of life. It’s much like a sand mandala that Tibetan Buddhist monks create with great patience, devotion, and attention to detail, only to have it ritualistically destroyed and the sand returned to nature.

Some friends and followers have inquired about how to get started balancing rocks. Balanced stone artist, Peter Juhl, has put together some useful resources, including his book, Center of Gravity: A Guide to the Practice of Rock Balancing, and his Temporary Sculpture website. They are excellent, inspiring starting points.

After publishing this post, I’m heading to my classroom to get set up and am bringing a basket of ocean rocks with me. This year, I intend to introduce my kindergartners to rock balancing, stacking, and arranging!

The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Engaging the Magic in Narragansett

Engaging the Magic in Narragansett

So, I ended my last blog post by saying that I planned to have two more adventures before August is over. I didn’t know what they would be but felt they would involve rocks and water. And it turned out my next adventure involved LOTS of rocks and water! How it manifested was truly amazing. Sometimes I am astonished by the ways of the universe and need to write in order to remember that gifts can arise completely expected out of the blue!

My husband and I had been talking about him taking a couple days off from his summer job so we could go to the ocean. We were thinking we’d go to Rhode Island like we did last year and probably get a hotel room for a night so we could have two beach days. It was the day before we had planned to go away, and he still hadn’t requested the time off. And I hadn’t looked into making a hotel reservation because I wasn’t sure we’d actually go ahead with it. Last year we went on the spur of the moment during early August when there weren’t as many things clamoring for my attention as there are a week before a new school year begins. Now it was the end of summer, I hadn’t had a paycheck since June, and my son needed running shoes for cross country, among other expenses. Perhaps it would be better to save money by staying home.

But I really wanted to get to the ocean.

I told my son I’d take him to get running shoes that afternoon, and on the way to pick him up, I received the most exciting news that felt like an answer to a prayer! My husband was at his summer job, and his boss asked him if he wanted to take a break and help himself to some food. Although he was hungry, he wasn’t interested in what was offered and decided to stay put. He then asked his boss for a couple days off so we could go to the ocean and explained that we don’t have any specific plans but would figure out something, as we did last year. Instantly, a friend of mine pulled up on her bike and talked with my husband’s boss. She and my husband recognized each other and began talking. He told her we were planning to go to Rhode Island the following day and had to make plans for a place to stay. It turns out she and her family rented a big beach house for the month that would be vacant for the exact same days that we wanted to be in Rhode Island. Next thing I knew, I received a text from my friend saying that we had a place to stay on Great Island in Narragansett! I couldn’t believe it!

That is what I call “engaging the magic.” Had my husband taken a break to get food, he wouldn’t have crossed paths with my friend, and the invitation wouldn’t have manifested. How perfect is that?

We were so excited that we left a few hours after he got home from work and arrived at our destination at 12:30 a.m. Even though it was dark outside, I could feel the salty air as we drove along and were surrounded almost entirely by water. I felt like Goldilocks exploring the house to decide which bed I liked best – and fell asleep promptly!

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Needless to say, we had the best time in Narragansett. The house was incredible. The location was unbelievable. The weather was perfect. I took more than 700 pictures.

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We spent three afternoons balancing rocks on the beach at Scarborough Beach, Black Point, Point Judith, and other locations. I will write about that in a separate post.

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While packing up after our first afternoon on Scarborough Beach, we ran into an older couple – both native Rhode Islanders. The woman was walking along picking up sponges that had been deposited on the beach by high tide, and she taught me what to look for and how to dry them so they can be used for painting. This was another gift because I love to paint with sponges!

The next morning, I got up at 5:30 a.m. and headed to Point Judith to catch a glorious sunrise.

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Later, we went out for breakfast and then stopped into a store owned by a couple of rock balancers. Before we left, I noticed sand dollars in the display case and asked the man if he sells them. Sand dollars always remind me of my grandfather, who died when I was 17. He wintered in Florida and brought me back a sand dollar along with a story about sand dollars. The store owner replied that he doesn’t sell them, but one day a man came along and gave him a bunch. My husband took notice and exclaimed that he saw a big bucket of sand dollars from the balcony where we ate breakfast overlooking the seaport. We found the bucket, and a fisherman walking by said we could have as many as we wanted because they’d been sitting there for a month. So I added sand dollars to my collection of ocean treasures and gifts from the universe.

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After another afternoon balancing rocks on a beach adjacent to Point Judith Lighthouse, we decided to cook up a meal of vegetables (that we brought from our own garden) and fresh sea scallops. When we stopped at a seafood market along the harbor, we happened to be the lucky customers and received fresh scallops and swordfish for free! It was another matter of perfect timing – showing up on the right day at the right time. And the meal was delicious! We savored it on the upstairs deck while watching the sun set.

The next morning, I woke up at 5:30 again and headed back to Point Judith for another pastel dream of a sunrise.

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Then I retreated to a quiet spot on the rocks at Camp Cronin for some simple, solitary, sunrise rock balancing. I can’t remember ever feeling more in my element!

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We spent our last afternoon (Wednesday) in Narragansett at Camp Cronin/Point Judith Lighthouse. The older couple we met on the beach two days prior had told us there would be really big waves on Wednesday because of a hurricane somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, and this was the case. The wind made rock balancing challenging, and I opted to sit on the rocks near where I had balanced rocks that morning and appreciate it with all my senses, for we would have to return home soon.

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If my husband were writing, his account would differ from mine, for we did a fair amount of exploring on our own. He engaged with the locals more than I did – even when he balanced rocks. It was easy to find our way around, and of course we also enjoyed our time together. The trip was magical from start to finish, and we were filled to the brim with gratitude. It’s so exciting to find new places to love and to be so in the flow! I returned home inspired deeply by people’s generosity and the goodness that can transpire when you open up and engage with life.

The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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