Rock cairn

Rock cairns are route markers, way-finding tools.  They can guide us back on track after doodling along, lost on our pilgrimages.  Often they are built by people who have gone the route ahead of us.  They say we are not alone on our journeys.


Floating rocks

Staying open to change, to new opportunities:

“I want to keep walking away from the person I was a moment ago, because a mind was made to figure things out, not to read the same page recurrently.”
— Donald Miller,  Through Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road

Rows of rock cairns, Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park

Rows of rock cairns, Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park

by Jane Hirschfield, from Given Sugar, Given Salt

What appears to be stubbornness,
refusal, or interruption,
is to it a simple privacy.  It broods
its one thought like a quail her clutch of eggs.

Mosses and lichens
listen outside the locked door.
Stars turn the length of one winter, then the next.

Rocks fill their own shadows without hesitation,
and do not question silence,
however long.
Nor are they discomforted by cold, by rain, by heat.

The work of a rock is to ponder whatever is:
an act that looks singly like prayer,
but is not prayer.

As for this boulder,
its meditations are slow but complete.

Someday, its thinking worn out, it will be
carried away by an ant.
Mystrium camille,
perhaps, caught in some equally diligent,
equally single pursuit of a thought of her own.



The flat, smooth, water-rounded pebbles and rocks on the beaches of Washington’s Pacific coast seem to inspire Andy Goldsworthy-ish mini-sculptures.  I often find cairns, those piles of gradually smaller and smaller stones precariously balanced.  Part of their appeal is their ephemeral nature, waiting to be toppled by tide or wind or passersby.

My sister and her husband collect heart-shaped stones.  I seem incapable of walking a beach without picking up at least one favorite rock or stone to take home.  On this day, I found irresistible this dimpled rock that felt good in my hand and pocket:


And I added my own Andy Goldsworthy-inspired rock art to the Rialto Beach landscape.  It was likely dismantled by the next incoming tide, but I couldn’t wait around to witness its destruction.




Water and Stone

September 5, 2013

Circle of stones

Circle of stones

“What’s softest in the world
rushes and runs
over what’s hardest in the world.
The immaterial
the impenetrable.
So I know the good in not doing.
The wordless teaching,
the profit in not doing —
not many people understand it.

— Ursula Le Guin, “Water and Stone,” from Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching:  A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way

Watercolor sketch of circle of stones

Watercolor sketch of circle of stones

This post is dedicated to Bonnie and Mike and circles of friends.

Approaching Ebey's Landing trailhead

Approaching Ebey’s Landing trailhead

“I leave this notice
on my door
For each accustomed
I am gone into the fields
To take what this sweet hour yields.”
— Percy Bysshe Shelley

I take most of my out-of-town guests to Whidbey Island for hiking at Ebey’s Landing.  The journey itself is half the fun as it involves a ferry ride and a drive along country roads with old barns.

Old barn, Whidbey Island

Old barn, Whidbey Island

Another old barn

Another old barn

Ferry viewed from the bluff at Ebey's Landing

Ferry viewed from the bluff at Ebey’s Landing

The hike itself is pretty spectacular no matter which season I take guests there. The trail is a pleasant loop, up a bluff, and then along the beach on the way back.  This past weekend the landscape was as green as I’ve ever seen it.

Stairs at the start of the hike

Stairs at the start of the hike

Notice the hikers (like ants) on the bluff and on the shore

Notice the hikers (like ants) on the bluff and on the shore

The initial uphill stretch.  The path soon levels off at the top of the bluff.

The initial uphill stretch. The path soon levels off at the top of the bluff.

View of farmland from the bluff; so green

View of farmland from the bluff; so green

View from Ebey's Landing

View from Ebey’s Landing



Steep slope

Steep slope

Tree sculpted like bonsai

Tree sculpted like bonsai



Driftwood along the beach

Driftwood along the beach

The homeward stretch along the shore

The homeward stretch along the shore



Seaweed and rocks

Seaweed and rocks

Beach sculpture

Beach sculpture




















A Stone is a Riddle

April 17, 2012

One stone from my collection of favorite found objects

by Charles Simic

Go inside a stone
That would be my way.
Let somebody else become a dove
Or gnash with a tiger’s tooth.
I am happy to be a stone.

From the outside the stone is a riddle:
No one knows how to answer it.
Yet within, it must be cool and quiet
Even though a cow steps on it full weight,
Even though a child throws it in a river;
The stone sinks, slow, unperturbed
To the river bottom
Where the fishes come to knock on it
And listen.

I have seen sparks fly out
When two stones are rubbed,
So perhaps it is not dark inside after all;
Perhaps there is a moon shining
From somewhere, as though behind a hill —
Just enough light to make out
The strange writings, the star charts
On the inner walls.

Gray stone with white ring

You can hear Simic read this poem at Poetry Everywhere.

“Sermons in stones, books in the running brooks, and good in everything . . .”
— Louisa May Alcott, Little Men

” . . . there is faithfulness in rocks.”
— Adam Nicholson, Sea Room

Dramatic stone forms of volcanic tuff in the Wheeler Geologic Area

I like “off-the-beaten-path” experiences when I travel, so when my sister-in-law and I were discussing itineraries for this road trip through Colorado, her suggestion to visit the Wheeler Geologic Area intrigued me.  I had never heard of this place.  It is so remote that the only access is via hiking trail or a bone-jarring drive along 14 miles of unimproved road.

The adage about the destination being only a part of the journey applied in this case.  The journey to Wheeler was certainly an adventure.  We rented a sturdy 4-wheel-drive jeep for creeping along at speeds of 5-miles-per-hour or less over a rocky, bumpy track with hairpin curves and dips and hills.  There were only a couple of worrisome, hair-raising spots, but the road was manageable.  We were relieved, though, to finally arrive and begin exploring the Wheeler formations.

The Wheeler Geologic Area reminded me of a little Bryce Canyon, with weird-shaped spires and forms carved out of volcanic rock.  It’s definitely a place to come to if you are seeking solitude.  We were the only people camping on the night we spent there.

Here are some photos:

Journeying down the unimproved road in our rented 4-wheel-drive jeep

Testing the water depth at a low spot in the road

The road to Wheeler Geologic Area

Our campsite at the Wheeler Geologic Area

First look at the weird rock formations

Wheeler Geologic Area

Natural amphitheater at Wheeler

Approaching early evening rain storm, Wheeler Geologic Area

Road near our campsite after the rain

Nearing sunset, Wheeler Geologic Area


by Rainer Maria Rilke
translated by Robert Bly

Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors
which it passes to a row of ancient trees.
You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you,
one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth,

leaving you, not really belonging to either,
not so hopelessly dark as that house that is silent,
not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing
that turns to a star each night and climbs —

leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads)
your own life, timid and standing high and growing,
so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out,
one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next a star.

Morning: First light hitting the spires



Embrace Tranquility

February 7, 2011

Tranquility message on rock

“You have learned to enjoy the attribute of patience itself, for it slows time, embraces tranquility, and lets you savor in a world in which you are clearly aware that your passage is but a brief candle.”
     — Mark Halprin, Digital Barbarism: A Writer’s Manifesto


The western part of Glacier National Park is dominated by Lake McDonald.

Little did we know that much of Glacier National Park shuts down by mid-September.  Most campgrounds were closed by September 19th. This was the final weekend for staying at the Lake McDonald Lodge and the Glacier Park Lodge at East Glacier.  The Going-to-the-Sun Road was closed between Avalanche and Logan Pass on September 19th for construction, so we had to access the park from two different entrances, about 90 miles apart. 

Still, we counted ourselves lucky to have so much of the park in uncrowded circumstances. We divided our time — half of Day 1 in West Glacier, and the morning of Day 2 in the park by St. Mary’s.  The weather was too blustery for our planned hikes, so we just enjoyed the scenery and short trails close to the road. 

Shoreline of Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

Looking across Lake McDonald to fire-ravaged slopes and distant peaks

We could drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road as far as Avalanche Creek.

Deeply crevassed bark of fir tree on Trail of the Cedars nature trail

These tree roots reminded me of pigs' hooves!!

My husband fishing off the dock at Lake McDonald (no luck)

A few early touches of fall colors on the shore of Lake McDonald

Pebbly shore of Lake McDonald

A peek at the magnificent lobby of the Lake McDonald Lodge

The drive between West and East Glacier and the St. Mary’s entrance was stunningly beautiful.    We took it at a leisurely pace, twice (there and back).   Not a bad compromise for the forced inaccessibility of the Going-to-the-Sun traverse across the park.  We stayed in an inexpensive motel (aah, the showers! the bed!) in East Glacier instead of the more expensive National Park Lodge.  We felt we were able to appreciate a lot of Glacier National Park’s scenery and other offerings even on such a short visit.

Along Hwy 2 between West and East Glacier

Look at the amazing array of colors in the ditch of Hwy 2

Peek at the lobby of the Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier. It would be open one more day before closing for the winter.

Andy Goldsworthy-like sculpture on the lawn at the Glacier Park Lodge

Rocks, feathers and shells


Cardinal feathers, Sanibel Island shells, sea-smoothed rocks


We Alone
by Alice Walker 

We alone can devalue gold
by not caring
if it falls or rises
in the marketplace.
Wherever there is gold
there is a chain, you know,
and if your chain
is gold
so much the worse
for you. 

Feathers, shells
and sea-shaped stones
are all as rare. 

This could be our revolution:
to love what is plentiful
as much as
what’s scarce.