Diary of a Rock Balancer :: 

Stone Balance Art created and photographed by Michael Grab — 06 May 2016 — Istria, Croatia ::

The beach rocks here (Croatia) sound like glass when they tap against each other.. curves sculpted by the sea, extremely hard, but brittle. Mostly pure white or cream colored on the beach (direct sun/oxygen exposure?), then a kind of orange color in the shallower tide zones, followed by a divine blend of greens and purples a bit deeper, then even deeper they take on a browner color, engulfed by underwater growth.

When they balance, they are absolutely solid. meaning they can usually stand a bit more wind than the usual colorado granite. Unlike granite, they have significantly less friction, meaning small vibrations can instantly make steep angles slip. Not easy to work with, but very satisfying to feel such a distinct vertice lock, even with the tiniest contact points.

One of the great dilemmas in my ongoing practice, is whether or not to add side rocks out on cantilevers, especially in extreme cases like this. Sometimes any added weight will slightly dislodge the core. I’ve induced several collapses in the process of adding larger and larger cantilever weight, learning a small something each time. It’s always a risk, but nonetheless an intelligent one, based on the stability i feel through the core at the event horizon. My previous attempt yielded collapse, and little time to rebuild before sunset. But i decided to risk it again.

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‘All or nothing’ as they say… which reminded me on this new moon: if i really love something, I will be willing to risk it all in order to satisfy my curiosity. Tis a common theme throughout my evolution in this practice, shifting from hobbyist to professional artist, and even with love and romance; risking it all.. often times my own comfort, heart, and sanity. The truth is I wouldn’t be here now putting ‘the good life’ into practice without the extreme risks I’ve taken in the face of potential disaster. As i’ve always said, dropping expectations is key. Accepting and even thriving in the possibility that it may not actually turn out as i plan. And consequently, surprising myself regularly.

I heard Alan Watts mention once that when we (adults, humans) start thinking of the world only in terms of survival and profit, then ‘the shapes of scratches on the floor cease to have magic’, and hence we become obsolete in the grand scheme of nature..

I’ve come to believe that it’s the genuine recognition and appreciation of beauty and magic in the world that really does keep our spirits youthful. I’m nearing my 32nd revolution of our sun, and still enchanted on a daily basis by the beauty of these collaborations with nature, process included. Not to mention an infinitely complex world, be it inside or outside this skin. Each and every sunrise/sunset seems a most obvious reminder that our lives are filled with magic as much as we allow.


94 Responses
  1. This… the formation, the photo and these profound thoughts, have created an indellible experience for me. Do you know how much you teach just by being yourself? Thank you… for being who you are. Thank you for your ability to be enchanted… which helps you create moments of enchantment for others. God bless you.

  2. I’m using your website to teach my Year 5/6 class about Growth Mindset. We were at camp this week and they were all out sitting on boulders or in dry creek beds rock stacking. It’s such a great tool to teach resilience, patience and stillness. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. This balance is spectacular. I’ve been really digging these seemingly haphazard, on-the-verge-of-collapse, magical stacks youve been doing lately. Theres a reason why peeps think you’re the best at what you do . ..But also of note, in equal balance to the amazing shit you pull off with rocks, is your writing. I’m still seeing the graduating color of stone and hearing the sound of the rock on rock clink after reading (and rereading) this post. ( though im sure i’ll still go back and read it again). :)
    It’s all so good!
    Rock on G!! We love what you do!

  4. I just saw a Van Gogh exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago yesterday, focused on his three studies of his bedroom in his home in Arles. Early in life, he collected nests, and continued to be fascinated by them his whole life. Many of his paintings reflect his connection with home (nest), and he was very absorbed in setting up his home in a particular way. I sense that same obsessive connection between you and the rocks in balance.

  5. Love the piece. The last sentence of your paragraphing. “each and every sunrise/sunset seems a most obvious reminder that our lives are filled with magic… As much as we allow.”
    I hope this sticks with me

  6. Question gravity…do you carry the same stones or sets of stones with you to different locations? Seems in a few of your photos the stones do not match the locations or have similar shapes. Awesome artwork, hoping to get to that level some day :-))

    1. I am no Gravity, but from my observations I have noticed that he uses the rocks from different locations. Different parts of the world have different chemical structure and contact points,etc, so they are quite different and difficult to work with. Because he doesn’t bring the same stones everywhere.
      That’s the beauty of it. You just never know what you will find in the next place you go to!

    2. Totally agree with you. Just to me, in some of the photos, there are no stones around anywhere or the stones don’t match the environment. When i stack rocks, i select a spot and select stones from that immediate area, nothing further than 6 – 10 feet away.

    3. Everything I use is indigenous to the space. It sucks carrying rocks. Especially toppers haha.. As for rocks not fitting the environments, that’s pure imagination :))

    4. lol agree, it is hard to carry rocks. Thank you for the clarification and the art. Photos can be deceptive some time. If you ever want to come to Thailand and stack, my door is open and i can take you around. :-))

    5. Jsinn Jaidee thank you! also to correct myself, the rocks are indigenous 99.9% of the time… sometimes back home when i have a car, i might take some from the creek up to mountain side to see the moonrise.. or places where rocks may be particularly sparse, and i have a car, i’ll carry a few with me.. but still i tend to avoid using the same rocks twice, unless one serendipitously appears to me a year later, washed down creek by the recent snow runoff.. but even in that case if i like it enough, i’ll still find a different way to place it. :)

    6. Ahhh ok, even further clarification, thank you for taking that time to help me learn brother. It is appreciated, trust. Amazing that you remember the same rocks you used a year prior, with stakes like you do, the rocks must remember you too. :-)

    7. Aw pure magic, see what you are saying about putting them into different positions as well. Is that something that just happens or you make it a point because you remember how it was stacked before?

  7. Michael, you are amazingly succinct in your expression of thought and creation!..constantly moved and impressed with your patience and creativity!….Inspiring….

  8. Beautiful work Michael, and beautiful words. Grateful that you continue to share both with us. Balance has more than one connotation you know. I think we might need someone to create a balance emoji. :-)

  9. That was beautifully said and in my 52nd rotation of the sun I’m just now learning that dropping expectations is key!! How I wish I had learned that a lot earlier! When the student is ready…

  10. The more we learn, we realize how little we know.
    Favor: if you record a fall in Croatia, please have sound with it. I’d love to hear the difference in their rocks.

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