Lessons from Rock Stacking

*More pictures included below the poem*

I’ve recently started a new hobby:
Stacking rocks into towers.
Since then I’ve spent hours in the zone, balancing stones,
Usually alone and usually at peace.
For a long time I’ve loved doing this by lakes and on the beach,
Wherever rocks are within reach, an activity only available in a handful of locations.
But then it dawned on me: my lawn would be a perfectly acceptable option,
I just need a collection of rocks to call my own.
So now I have a pile of stones with which to play.

But on that fateful day I didn’t foresee,
That there was more in store than just fun for me.
There are many lessons to be learned from this quirky hobby,
And surprisingly some of them hold weighty wisdom for life.
So listen close and I’ll try to unpack some tactics on how to stack rocks,
And how they unlock life lessons that are bigger than boulders.

Here’s the first:
The foundation is. . . well, um, foundational.
Forgive the redundancy, but let’s not skip past that first rock too quickly.
It is literally going to carry all subsequent stones on its shoulders.
Start with a good boulder.
Don’t bother building on unstable ground,
Keep searching until you’ve found a firm first rock that won’t wobble.
If the foundation isn’t steady, you’ve already committed to catastrophe.
You’ve given entropy an invitation to imminently disassemble.
But if you start on a strong base, your future self will thank you.

Hence lesson number two:
What do you do to win the war against the wobble?
Cobble together a smorgasbord of small stones.
The future’s unknown so make sure there’s a good variety in this army.
Keep these fresh recruits close and show them your respect,
Because they can protect your tower from toppling.
If you’re wondering, here’s how:
Wobble the big one to one side then slide a small rock–as wide as the crack–
Right underneath so it can’t wobble back.
The dreaded wobble is stopped in its tracks.
So don’t talk smack about these little stone soldiers,
These pillars propping up their bigger brethren.
Little people are often more pivotal than the big rock stars.

Lesson three:
You can either be STABLE or IMPRESSIVE,
When you value one, the other will suffer.
These two desires pull in opposing directions:
“Star of the show” vs. “slow and steady,”
You sacrifice stability when you go after the “wow factor,”
Cause the most striking towers skirt the edge of impossibility.
But pick wisely, cause openly defying gravity risks its wrath
And a crash is coming soon.
When it’s just rocks collapsing the consequences are small,
So I’m all for pushing the limits and stacking short-lived eye candy.
But when I’m stacking ME, I need to value those differently.

Let’s explore this more for lesson number four:
Before posting pictures online,
Consider the impact on your mind the next time you’re stacking.
I’m currently backtracking cause I made this mistake.
Both authentic and fake friends on Facebook
Commented or clicked LIKE,
So the childlike simplicity of putting one rock on top of the other,
Is somewhat smothered by an imagined audience to impress.
I confess that “Attention” can be a temptation for me,
And feeding that obsession simply starves my stability.
When I try to impress, I am surely less sturdy.
And there is something sweet about stacking in secret.

Lesson number five has absolutely no real life application and is only useful for the very specific task of placing rocks on top of each other:
Develop patience

Lesson six: listen well.
Your tower will tell you how it’s handling the weight,
And its fate flows out of your fluency.
So practice your ability in these tactile linguistics.
Here’s a quick trick in listening to the language of physics
Spoken in the dialect of stones,
A tactic to unveil the unknown,
A way to discover whether more weight can be placed on top,
Or if you need to stop stacking before your tower starts cracking.
Hold the top rock weakly, barely touching but ready to catch it in case of emergency.
Then very gently poke it from above,
A downwards delicate pressure upon the precise place you plan to put the next stone.
You’re testing that zone to see how much weight it can take.
If it starts to quake, catch it. The tower just told you not to add any weight there.
But if it stands square, expand your awareness by probing with progressive force.
And in due course, you’ll learn how heavy a rock you can place in that spot.
It’s not failproof,
But it’s better to learn how to listen than blindly dropping big burdens in bad places.

Lesson seven: Shit happens.
Things can collapse suddenly and it’s not always entirely clear why.
There is mystery and many things are outside of our control.
We have to roll with the punches and learn how to rebuild.
We can only do our best and leave the rest in God’s hands.

Lesson eight:
There is great pleasure in ordinary things.
Beauty and joy wrapped in everyday packaging
There is elegance in simplicity.
Great artistry woven into the laws of physics,
A mixed-media canvas in which we can participate.
We are invited to cultivate a childlike receptivity,
Drinking deeply from a fountain that’s far too frequently forgotten.
So many gifts we have been given,
And yet so slow to gratitude.
This pseudo-blindness where we dismiss so many things that are worthy of wonder.
Lower your threshold for thanksgiving; spring quickly into “Thank You”s.
Don’t lose the ability to celebrate simplicity,
Don’t become stingy with your gratefulness.

Final lesson, number nine:
We were designed to rearrange the raw materials of reality,
Whether that be rocks or other building blocks like words, wool, chickpeas or electricity.
We are meant to turn untapped potential into exponential blessing.
Adding value to our world so that it can flourish and thrive.
That is the high dignity of work, the responsibility of humanity,
Not merely a necessity for survival,
But a beautiful primal impulse to tend the garden.
It hardens our hearts when we define work as basely as “that which gains me money”,
So in a funny way, maybe altering regular rocks into a temporary altar
is a noble work of reordering raw resources as a beautiful offering.
And perhaps I’m taking this too seriously,
But for me this is way more than just a way to waste time.
There is something sublime, more than meets the eye,
Which is why I’d invite you to try it too.
Grab a few rocks and get stacking.

For truly mind-blowing rock stacking [not by me], visit Gravity Glue