Pebbles in a stream

Pebbles in a stream
August 2017

Yesterday evening, my sons and I set up camp by the side of a wild mountain river. After the tent was staked and the firewood chopped, I began to prepare our meal while the boys set about exploring the riverbank. A few minutes later, #1 son came back to get me; “there’s something you need to see.”

There in the river about 200 feet from our campsite was a small but impressive rock sculpture garden. Some creative and formidably patient soul had engaged in the modern art of balancing rocks. Most of the rock ‘statues’ were fairly simple—a round granite cobble placed atop a flat piece of sandstone or schist. But, several were considerably more complicated. One, in particular, seemed nearly impossible—an obelisk-shaped stone perched atop a natural pyramid. It was difficult to imagine how this dramatic stone finger pointing at the sky could possibly remain stable for a fleeting second, let alone minutes, hours, ….or days?

The boys were anxious for me to see the balancing rock sculptures and take some photos. As they put it, ‘they’re not going to last long.’

When I arrived back at camp the following evening after a soggy solo hike, the tent was not quite floating but surrounded by puddles. Sure enough, the river was swollen from the thunderstorms and most of the rock sculptures had been swept away; lost and gone forever.

Perhaps it’s a cliché to muse that rock sculptures in a mountain stream represent the ephemeral nature of all works of man. Modern artists have imbibed the lessons of Ozymandius through their high school English classes. All our works, whether toiled over by thousands of slaves or sculpted by a single craftsman, are overwhelmed by the hands of time.

While the balanced rock sculptures were ephemeral, they were also beautiful—especially when glistening in the sun and surrounded by a cascade. The fact that I only saw the sculptures for a few minutes made them all the more memorable. They were crafted with care, stood up against powerful forces, and then they were gone.

On further thought, perhaps the rock statues were also meant as reminders that each and every one of us is a unique and precarious sculpture put on Earth for only a very brief time. It doesn’t matter whether we’re tall and thin or short and round or peaceable or defiant. We’re all just pebbles standing against immeasurable forces that will, without fail, sweep us away either sooner or later.

Perhaps someone somewhere sometime will look back with fondness at the peculiar sculpture that I once was.

But, if not, that’s okay.

I was put on Earth to stand for a moment then be swept away and lost within an all-powerful and timeless flow. I am who I am because of my destiny as a child of God; a destiny that I joyfully embrace.