Sunday, April 28, 2013

Found Art

We were hiking in Yosemite Valley over the weekend and naturally did the easy hike up to Mirror Lake. Suddenly, to the left, was a surprise! I actually wanted to clap my hands when I saw this fabulous garden of little rock cairns. One is nothing--typically someone might stack one up as a trail marker for someone following if the way to go isn't clear--but a horde of thirty or more? It was marvelous! I was also reminded of how Jewish people often remember the dead by stacking stones at a gravesite. Now, this was no gravesite, but still, for me, they added a sense of awe and human reverence for this place. In fact, I'd remarked earlier to the people with me, waving my hand at the surroundings of Yosemite, "This is a true cathedral."

I was moved to add my own little cairn to the collection. How I managed to get those top two rocks to balance was an exercise in defying gravity (hint: the top stone needed help from a small stick).

Now, let me make something clear. I understand that when in nature, "Leave no trace" is Rule Number One. And if I had been way in the backcountry, I would perhaps have felt differently about this rock garden. But we were clearly in a place that is a high traffic area. One, the trail to Mirror Lake is mostly paved. Two, there is all kinds of park signage describing the lake, the story of Half Dome, and so forth. Three, there is an outdoor latrine. Four, as you can see in the video, there are steps leading to the area where people have added their cairns--the place they're occupying, in fact, used to be a parking lot many years ago. So this area is anything but wilderness. And five, the next time a storm blows through, these will all come tumbling down on their own. I just don't see the harm.

What I see is something beautiful, something playful, something spontaneous--what I see is found art.

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