The enormous drift log at Ruby Beach on the Olympic Peninsula was covered from end to end with carefully balanced round and oval rocks in shades of gray. Some were stacked on flat surfaces on the log; but space for the easy balance was at a premium and the creativity of the artist engineers was inspiring. A flat circle, wedged into a crack in the log was the base for the oval on top of it, the ends of which were supported by the first stone and a hump on the log, a pebble between the rounds making the top one level. The oval became the foundation for the progressively smaller stack of stones.
Some winter day the wild surf, the fierce winds, the strong currents will set the log adrift and the whole art installation will be reclaimed by the ocean. Someday a storm-high tide will wipe clean the cliff covered with hundreds of “we were here” stones wedged into the rock face the day my friend Vee and I visited—names etched onto the rocks with bits of charcoal left from a beach campfire.
On Mt. Rainier last summer, on a shale-covered promontory high up the mountain above Panorama Point on the High Skyline Trail, a different kind of rock was the medium for more challenging balance art. The winter snows wiped clean last year’s slate; and with the trail only recently passable again, the art had not yet been recreated on last week’s visit. Where last summer on the mountain, and this summer at the driftwood-strewn beach, I added art to that of others, this visit to the mountain we had the opportunity to begin the work. Perhaps I will return in a month or six weeks, and see the point covered with goddesses again. And I will know that instead of being the small stone balanced with care on top of the stack, our work was the foundation stone—the inspiration for the additions of others.
Neither art nor life can be created without the base coat of paint, the stone that holds up the sculpture, the idea spark. Without the just right finishing touch added at the end, the whole thing fails to reach its full potential. And without all the pieces and layers in between it doesn’t exist. Someone has to begin it, and someone has to finish it; and many people and much work in between keep it growing.
Balance was the unplanned theme of my vacation week, from the symmetry of mandala art on Rialto and Ruby beaches, to the non-symmetrical on Mt. Rainier, to losing our balance on the trail-covering snow field—in spite of trying hard to stay upright. I’m thinking about all of that this morning, here at my table in the coffee shop as I return to routine. I am grateful to my sisters, Jo Ann and Rebecca, for being Daughters on Duty in July; for making it possible for me to get away and create balance in my life.
However much any of us enjoys whatever we are doing, we need something different to keep from becoming lopsided and careening unbalanced off the edge. My life these days is not physically or mentally challenging. Although it is lonely, emotionally difficult and often maddening, it is sometimes hard to feel like I have earned a vacation. But we all, every one of us, need restorative time from whatever we do.
In yoga yesterday—where I ended my vacation after delivering Vee to the airport—starting from a half sunbird pose on hands and knees with right leg extended parallel to the floor, the instructor misspoke in getting us to full sunbird. She said to extend our right arm forward, parallel to the floor. Now it is possible to extend an arm and a leg on the same side if you lean into the supported side; but it is much easier—and more centrally balanced—to extend on opposite sides. To get completely away from our ordinary lives—to use different muscles and brain cells, maybe to add strenuous exercise to office-chair-bound work or days in an Adirondack chair by a lake to lives that are spent in hard physical or brain labor—provides the perfect balance that enhances our living and makes us strong.
As we came to the end of our yoga practice yesterday, our final flow before savasana was a sequence surely created by my Pacific Northwest yoga studio: Mist over Mountains. It begins with the strong mountain pose, arms sweep up overhead; then wrists become limp and fingers point downward, leading the arms back down, body bending forward to follow as misty rain falls on the mountain then evaporates as the arms rise strongly back up. I don’t know exactly when it last rained here in the PNW, but it has been many weeks and the earth is thirsty. We yogis were calling forth the rain. As the first of the three chimes to end savasana sounded, I was startled from my rest by an accompanying clap of thunder followed by the beautiful sound of rain drumming on the roof of the Yoga Loft. It was over before I got outside, but there were puddles! Even endless sunny days need restorative balance.