Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Place of Balance

Yesterday, began like the others up here at this fabulous lodge, with Mark teaching his eager students and me sitting on the deck writing away listening to the baying hounds that live in the bottom of the valley below. Today there are clouds covering some of the peaks ahead of my view giving the mountains their name sake “smoky” description. The sound of the passing motorcycles on the winding roads below rumble as they pass by.  It is cool and pleasant, again. It is a tough gig to have to be here. Back at home I know the weather is better, if one can call ninety plus heat good in any situation other than a sauna, but it is still hot and humid. But, I jump ahead, let’s go back to yesterday. 
Once Mark had finished filling the class’s head with what to do with camera stuff, we sat on the deck and ate our lunch with our buddies from NC. We chatted about various things and laughed, and then began to give thought as to how to finish the afternoon. While we were still mulling over our prospects for the day, a dash of brown flew over out heads and ran right into a tree in front of us and it gave serious contact with a dove that was just leaving the tree. Both of the forms tumbled through the air.  The dove managed to right itself and flew away a few feathers less than before, but still alive. The accipiter hawk, whether a Sharp Shin or a male Cooper’s Hawk, we really couldn’t tell, flew off unsuccessful on this venture. We had noticed this hawk before and had seen a dash of his before at the Goldfinches on the feeding station, no doubt its feeding station as well as for the finches.
Mark had a bit of a sore head, (perhaps it was from the free flowing martinis the night before, but who am I to speculate) and he went to take a quick snooze. I went to wander around the grounds as I wanted to see how the heirloom tomato plants were doing that had provided the yummy sliced yellow and deep red tomato slices for out dinners on previous nights. I found them in the garden by the tennis courts, huge healthy plants with enormous globes of fruit. I jotted down the names of a few I hadn’t heard of before and will perhaps try them at home next season.
The day was warming up a bit, still in the low eighties so am not complaining, so my thoughts were leaning towards finding some water to sit next to or stick my feet in. Once Sleeping Beauty woke from his restorative snooze, Mark and I piled into the car and headed down the hill in the direction of the closest stream we had seen. We had crossed a bridge over it the day before on the way back from Joyce Kilmer Forest, and I had seen a few cairns left in the water and it had looked like a nice pool to check out.
As we walked down to the stream from the gravel parking lot, it was clear that this was not an ordinary pool in a trout stream. At the top of the pool lay a very large boulder which stretched almost the width of the stream and it channeled the flow into a deep blue hole below the fall. Then the water leveled out into a wide flat pool that meandered for another hundred feet or so before it came to the tail of the pool and spilled over into the next. This was no ordinary pool of water however, as the cairns I had seen from the road were only the tip of the sight before us. We had stumbled into yet another incredible and magic place. Not again one might say, but, oh yes and then some.
In front of us stood perhaps forty or fifty of the most exquisitely placed stacks of rounded stones, all standing scattered over the width and length of the entire pool. The stood before us like the guardian statues that were found guarding some ancient Chinese tomb. Off went the shoes, out came the cameras, and into the water, we went. It was transfixing, mesmerizing, and totally unexpected.
Once close to each sculpture, each revealed an organic personality which changed from any perspective as you moved around them. Some were more sophisticated in their design, but all were amazing and deserving of observation and study. There were a few that stood with balance points so precarious that a butterfly landing on one of the stones in the stack could have upset the cairn and made it fall. It was obvious that a master artist had done some of these, and with the next rain fall the stream would swell and they would all be gone. 
There is fragile beauty to the ephemeral art form that makes the experience take on a feeling that one had better appreciate it for all its worth at this moment in time, because this is, it. You just can’t afford to assume it’s going to be there the next time. This quietly flowing pool with all of these incredible stone sculptures was a Zen garden and brought forth a relaxing and yet energizing mood. We both were stunned, and after photographing them for a while, we sat on a rock in the midst of these magic stones, and just sat and looked. This place had a strong and engaging spirit and was meant to be savored.
Several passing people had walked out onto the huge boulder at the head of the pool and all had asked if we were the artists, and we regrettably had to say no. One fellow with a bright orange shirt politely asked if his sitting on the boulder would interfere with our pictures and when we said no, he sat and also took in the scene for two hours, obviously as moved and amazed as we were.
At some point I went back to the car to get some wine, it being five o’clock somewhere in the world by then. Up drove our friends, who just happened by also looking for a pool of water to cool off by. They too were stunned at the scene and we sat together with our wine, took more photos, and speculated about how this is what a spa experience should be about. This moment did not cost a thing and was deeply rewarding to the spirit.
We went further with this idea. We figured that one could begin with a good stiff hike at the close by forest, that could then lead down to the cooling waters, where one could get a bit of hydro therapy in the moving water, then lay upon the warm boulder, perhaps get a massage thrown in, all in the presence of these magic characters watching over with the soothing background noise of the tumbling waters, this sound, totally real and not piped in on an ipod. Finally,  our souls refreshed, we left these little magic cairns and headed back up the mountain to our home base and an awaiting dinner.
And yet another day, here in paradise.    More shots below.. mine are cell phone shots. Mark will have some really nice ones soon to see. 

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