lakeside doodles

here’s a quick set of pointless, effortless doodles. the main enjoyment here was working in a new place with unfamiliar stone, feeling the warm water and sand coursing around my feet as the afternoon sunlight revealed previously unperceived facets of beauty and grace in each rock. for those of you that are wondering, this is Sebago State Park, a wonderful place to visit!

the base, a weather-beaten stump, had little material supporting it, the ground having eroded from beneath it. this meant that deflected a little with each element it was loaded with, eventually changing the angle enough that previously stable configurations became untenable, toppling the whole thing. this is good for you to experience. the changes you make in life will eventually mean you have to become a different person. I am aiming to only topple the portions that hold me back from being loving and true, but it’s a work in progress. each time the structure falls, I have to ask myself again what I want to build and breath peacefully.


that’s enough rambling from me for today. God bless you.

among the waves


fast work on a sunday with my long johns on under my jeans. it was cold when I got there, but working gets you warm quick. the water itself was balmy, which was a real help, considering I had to gingerly pick my way over a bit of a gap by using stepping stones that were constantly getting doused by little waves. the going was slippery and shifty, meaning I couldn’t bring too much material across the jump with me. there were a couple times where I took a tumble and almost fell right into the drink, and I had to chuck the stone I was carrying away so that I didn’t crush an errant body part with it.

these guys are just spur of the moment quick-stacks, but the sunshine and adrenaline of jumping made up for the thoughtless nature of the work. the balance element was sorta fun, too, I guess. I can really feel the good weather fading now; it seems just yesterday I was stacking in the snow. it’ll be here soon enough, again.

another place to sit

after my new serpentine wall, I was thinking about more places to view the ocean from. I don’t think I spend enough time enjoying the view at the beach. a friend of mine was working where I usually stack, so I went over to another cove closer to the lighthouse. saw a big boulder, and felt like chucking big things around. can’t lift too much when you’re using larger pieces, so I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone and work on my fitting technique. made a patio with a small wall, suckers. it wasn’t impressive at all, but it did give me a place to sit and exercise some self control.

I sat down and watched the tide come in. I kept feeling restless and wanting to leaving – have to be productive, have to keep moving! but no, today was a day to sit. I intentionally built where I thought I would be below the high water mark, so that I could get some good interaction with the waves as the tide came in. the sun was warm, the wind was cool, and the process of staying still is good for me.

this ended up being as far as the water came in after two hours of waiting. it’d be interesting to come back to this area when I have a lot of time and see how much of the landscape I can smooth off in different layers and sections to shape the flow of the tide coming in. we’ll see. I have to get calmer, grow quieter.

Serpentine Wall II

one of my first stacks I was truly proud to present to you all was my serpentine wall back in 2011. I decided to revisit the form last month, and was really satisfied with the results.

serpentine gif



often when I get to the beach, I have no idea of what I want to do. this was one of those times, so I built a simple point balance. I was sitting and looking at it against the waves, and decided I wanted to enshrine it in another build. it wasn’t that it was that great, but I thought the exercise would be fun. I started building a c curve to contain it and point towards the ocean, a place to sit. when my back began to twinge, I took a break from the heavy lifting to build a second point balance, deciding to continue the curve into an S.

the curve had a slight slope to it as I was trying to cap the surface of the first side of the S, and I decided to feature this concept with a continual grade across the entire body, swooping up from the ground to a high point. I’m trying to force myself away from flat, square work, but it’s the easiest and most instinctual thing to do. the work is pretty rough through this whole wall – little of the tight masonry I usually try to feature at least a little of in my builds, but this project was really big, and I’ve got to keep within my stamina’s limits if I want to finish anything meaningful before I leave the beach.

most stacks take 3 hours; this project took more like 5. the feeling of completion was gratifying; for once, I committed to sitting down and actually enjoying what I had constructed. as I sat on the wall, various other visitors to the beach congregated around the curves, sitting, leaning, or walking along the slope, talking, taking pictures, and watching the gray ocean moving in and out. a really restorative moment. sitting and eating my snack, I felt more connected to nature than I had in a long time.

the wall has stayed up over the last month. certain pieces seem to attract interaction; even though they don’t know exactly how to do it, people want to get involved. they want to be a part of it. so, they’ve piled more rocks on top of the flat surface, turning the wall into a sort of wandering slug. in morphing from its original form, it’s lost some of its personal artistic appeal, but it’s gained a lot of human worth to me. I don’t like people at the beach praising my work because it embarrasses me, but noting makes me happier than seeing people enjoying it on their own. any moment someone spends relaxing with my art is worth as much to me as it is to them.

perhaps some day I’ll take a week off from work and try to transform as much of the landscape at the cove beach as possible without injuring myself. part of me says it’s arrogant to make the whole place my playground, but I know it’ll all just vanish back into gentle chaos before I know it. it’s an exercise in love and effort, then acceptance and release.  through it all, immersion. more stacking to come. another day. more dreams. here’s to 100 posts, let’s go further.

stair column

hey there, friends. I have something to share today that I’m relatively proud of.

spin gif


I have mentioned on a few occasions this year that I want to get into doing more three dimensionally engaging pieces. the problem that I often face is that I build something as a straight extrusion; I design a profile, and I give it thickness. that’s it. when I’m lazy like this, I still get my kicks out of the building process in general, but I don’t think I produces especially interesting results.

this stair column was an attempt at making something you want to travel around and see from different angles. it’s a super simple concept – peel away in stepped layers as the tower grows. the variables here are beginning  footprint of the structure, the angle of the taper, and the depth of the step size. changing these will change how many turns you’re able to make before you run out of space. I cheated a little in this iteration of the idea by having the column flair out from the breaking edge where the layer steps back, but I began to run out of light and height, as the resulting tower was around 6′ – hard to work well when it’s nearly dark and your area of effort is above your head.

I managed to do a little more, but I didn’t like the result, and it was far too dim to get a good shot.

I may revisit this idea with a larger base or a different size. I was also thinking about adding a lip to the outer edge of the structure, either vertically like a railing on the stair step or as an overhang. regardless, there are other areas to explore here, and I plan on using them in conjunction with other efforts. new tools in the toolbox always make me happy.

this stayed up for a while, and I got pictures sent to me from a few friends who happened to stop by the beach the weekend it was up, asking if it was me. it definitely brightened my mood to see it still standing for a while; in most cases, the moment I leave the beach for the day is the last moment I know the thing exists. I’ve scoped out a different section of the beach. might work there soon.

rolling flow

gif - curve

It was foreign to work on a smooth surface! In most circumstances I have to begin by shaping the terrain and stabilizing it so that I can be sure my efforts won’t go to waste when the base gives way half an hour into my work. This concrete ledge has always been an item of interest, and I’ve engaged with it tentatively a couple times – with the shelter, for example – but never built directly on it. It was so strange that at first all I could think to do was make some flat pattern and see how I could make random rocks fit together.

Once I had laid the initial layer down, it was time to decide where to go next. I have talked some about how I’m aiming to avoid straight extrusions of profiles, so I thought it might be good to consider tapering it upwards. I threw in a couple rounded objects to shape a couple voids, and I’d never put two in the same object before; I’m thinking about doing a series of pierced objects again soon, and this was good practice. once I’d started the slope up over the form work pieces, I felt that more of a continually changing slope was more fitting; I was doing it in plan, why not in elevation?

this build continually changed as I worked on it, growing organically into something more than I had hoped for. I liked the outcome a lot. it’s still standing, over a week later, and every time I go back, someone has made a copycat near it or added on to my original piece. as you can see, there are two different sets of photos here – one where it has rained, and one where the stones are dry. I’m sad to admit that even with two visits, I didn’t manage to take a good photo. I have real problems keeping my hands steady, and of late it seems to be getting worse. I don’t know what to say about that.

as usual, I think more exploration is needed. always more, more, more – the best part of this hobby is that it drives me forward, captivating my mind and filling me with a coursing passion for the world. my work is incredibly selfish – I don’t really care if other people see what I’ve done, I just want to figure out private questions of beauty, form, capability, the essence of material… useless questions, really, with answers I’ll never be able to articulate or share with someone else. these answers become part of me and spur me forward in other areas of my life; I may build with stone in the real world, but structures are forming in my mind that will be useful one day.

instinct – make an arch

this is what happens when you space out and go back to what you know. sometimes I want to stack without thinking, and the usually ends with me making some crappy little arch.

when I finished, I did work a little harder than usual on facing the top properly. I have been thinking about the concepts of “finish” and “direction” more than I have in the past; I think I need to pursue the use of a clean aesthetic, whether in matching material or in trying alternate orientations for my elements. here’s the top of the structure for my mediocre attempt at a smooth surface:

trabeation (5)


the other moment of enjoyment in the build was this little stone right here:

trabeation (4)


sandwiched between two large slabs, it was barely staying in place, and with a little nudge, it would have slid out and toppled the whole thing. it was the only unstable element in the entire build. so much about my stacking is about the search for stability and balance, structure and safety, etc; as such, purposely and (nearly) invisibly including such a useless and atypical element was a sort of private joke with myself as I continued to mindlessly build. it didn’t even fit stylistically with the rest of the build and yet – there it was. usually such conceits earn me a collapsed pile and frustration, but this time it stood through to the end.

as soon as I finished, I stretched, went swimming for half an hour in the freezing water, and then sat in the shade of my little creation for a while. I usually leave immediately upon taking pictures; staying made me realize how much I’d like to have an area to continually work with the stones I pull from the earth, slowly shaping a landscape into a private paradise, to which I could invite fellow dreamers to relax and contemplate life. perhaps one day that wish will come true. for now, there’s the beach.