08 March 2010

of stones and moving water

That's what I've figured out is the missing link, living smack in the middle of a neighborhood in a city - there just aren't any large stones, there's no moving water.  For the better part of the last 30 years, we've lived within either sight or hearing distance or very close proximity to either an ocean or a fast moving river or Puget Sound or a creek with piles of rocks natural or 'enhanced' or assisted, big ones and little ones, flat ones and jagged and, in this part of the world, densely wooded acreage.

In Davenport, Ca we were between the Pacific Ocean and the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, surrounded by hundreds of acres of brussel sprouts and on occasion could see the spouts of gray whales migrating north from the kitchen window.  Idyllic until that blasted earthquake.  How's this for 80's bad hair - oof, poodle top.

The first house we owned in North Carolina was 2 1/2 acres in the middle of a bunch more ...

This was our little log slice of heaven in Bryson City for seven years.  The ridge is Thomas Divide in the National park.  A small branch of Galbraith Creek curved around the house to the left.  So sad, the 150 acres up to the park is all developed now, so very sad.

It only just occurred to me - that moving water is the biggest thing that's been missing in my daily awareness.  I've been poring over the city map looking for parks or greenways for walking, places with the rocks and moving water and woodlands that I've been craving.  One thing I've had in the back of my mind ... the NC Arboretum.  Only thing, I thought it was quite a hike to get there, I thought I'd have to travel over the interstate and through hectic sections of town with tons of cars and traffic lights.  Looking at the map provided one of those gentle 'a-ha' moments.  Turns out the Blue Ridge Parkway runs almost a perfect diagonal from my east of town neighborhood to the far southwest Arboretum with only 5 traffic lights!  So with the forecast of a glorious day ahead, we set off Saturday morning for a hearty southern breakfast at our favorite restaurant and then to explore what is now our new favorite place.

We were smitten the moment we turned onto the property and decided to become members straight away with unlimited year round access and discounts and membership bennies on all kinds of things.  This time of year, walking through the formal gardens provides the tantalizing prospect of things to come.  There were just a few hints of spring ... the tiniest shoots of bulbs, minute buds on shrubs, ferns just barely showing their heads.  Piles of snow remain on the shadow sides of buildings and patches along the trails, but the day was crystal clear, still a bit brisk; a steady breeze kept the day from really warming.  Oh but such sweet relief, walking along the trails, admiring the Japanese rock gardens and winter-hardy bonsai, wandering the outer trails, resting on rock benches and listening to the rush of the French Broad River below us.  I felt my soul release a gentle sigh, what had felt like the death grip of this difficult winter give way just a bit.

In my excitement to head for the exhibits and trails, I left my camera in the car - sheesh.  When I remembered, I was far enough away to leave it be.  Ah, but the good weather continues.  This morning, I got a relatively early start and, with camera in hand, headed back to continue my explorations.  The walk started off with a good long uphill, relatively bare with slushy patches of snow along the way ...

Then the trail dropped down and I headed off to the footpath along Bent Creek - finally, rushing water ...

and thickets of mountain laurel and rhododendron!

And it just keeps getting better ... you might have guessed, I'm a bit of a rock fanatic.  For years and years, each time we moved I lugged boxes of treasured rocks from the old home to the new, suffering the teasing and grunts and complaints about me hauling boxes of rocks around - the phrase "dumber than a box of rocks" comes to mind.  Our log cabin had an enormous rock cairn to mark the driveway entrance and my own standing stones in the front flower bed (see the cabin pic above), our house in Port Townsend had two large flower beds with beach rock retaining walls.

 Okay, so the previous owners hauled all those rocks from the beach, but I moved every one several times and was quite proud of my results.

This hauling rocks obsession has been a problem for years ... Vintage KVK (early 90's), hauling slabs of slate from the quarry - I can't believe my hair was ever that short!

And cruising North Beach in Port Townsend ... how many hours did I spend on that beach?  Lord mercy, it was heaven.

Anyway, as I was saying, I'm a rock fanatic and it turns out I'll be taking a dry stack stone workshop at the Arboretum next week!  I need to get some new leather gloves and then I'll be set and counting the days.  I can't wait!  Rocks, heaven awaits, I'll be stacking rocks!

Amazing what a walk in the woods can do for one's spirit. 
Now I'm off to putz in the yard.  Got to start planning where to cut in paths and walkways and where those new dry stacked stone walls will be going.  Just visualize Kathy Van Kleeck ... human back hoe.
Renewed, energized and happy.

blessings - kvk


  1. Oh, I do feel a kinship with you when it comes to rocks. They make me feel at home and I have lugged special ones literally all over the globe. I brought a special glacial cobble all the way from my home in Iowa to Australia. Pre-9/11 it set off caution going through the scanners because of its unusual shape. That very same glacial cobble has since come back with me 15 years later from my Australian home and now occupies a special place in my TX garden. I know it sounds silly but rocks make me feel grounded and at peace with place.

  2. Nothing silly about rocks. They're a big part of my life and my work - I love drilling them to use in my jewelry. Amazingly, I left 'the collection' in Port Townsend when we moved back to NC. It was just time to let them go. I did save a few special ones, but no more crates of rocks. Yep, us rock people know we're not crazy.

  3. when i first moved to NC my first feeling of "home" was up around Flat Rock near Ashville ... i can't remember the name now, but i was in the woods and the scent of mulching there made my body sigh for the first time in ages, connecting me not to Boston but to the woods of Childhood.

    have been thinking about your comment about the water; and this water down here, has not much rock, its more of an estuary towards the sea, and i am wanting closer proximity to the sand and salt of the ocean, still too.

    Saw a fin today while drinnking coffee, thought it might be shark but two softly curving dolphins were sluthing through the water, so they have returned from the ocean and were moving upwards towards i don't know.

    that rock stacking sounds wonderful.
    i always wanted to study stone laying and a almost took a class when a friend talked me out of it cause it was in the dead summer.


  4. m - estuaries and salt water marshes, some of my favorite places especially from the bow of a canoe. Such a softness to that landscape that's hard to describe. And dolphins, what a gift. Hard not to feel deep joy in the presence of such creatures.

    Turns out the rock workshop was mediocre, still good to be outside and toting rocks.

  5. Next time I'm in town, we'll have to plan a field trip to Triple Falls and Hooker Falls. Lots of moving water. Lots of big stones. They even filmed parts of "Last of the Mohicans" there.

  6. Yes. Yes. Yes! Moving water needs to be near! I want this for my kids as I had growing up. Thank you for sharing this simple thought that I had forgotten.

  7. Andrew - a field trip would be grand... even better with moving water!

    Shannon - maybe if not near, at least accessible on occasion ... and with amazing power to transform on such a deep level.

  8. oh yes, have been to a waterfall up in your world once, photographing. Guys were jumping in and others were contemplating from large rocks.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.