“I enjoy working in a quiet and subversive way.”
Can everybody just calm down? Take a deep breath? Stop jonesing when they get around a patch of rocks scattered about the forest floor?
A contingent of outdoorsy humans have collectively gone nuts when they get around rocks. They’re addicts needing their fix. They can’t stop themselves, so the stacking begins.
At first I thought these rock “gardens” were magical, wonderlands in random places that invited contemplation and silence.
Until they started showing up everywhere. And I learned about Snot Otters.
Now I’m imploring you stackers of rocks to just stop.
It’s over. Played. Outre. So derivative.
Also, potentially destructive and verging on offensive the way leaving used toilet paper unburied behind trees is offensive.
Stop leaving traces!
It’s time to move on. Find another way to express yourself. Another way to meditate. Another way to be in nature.
You know what's magical? Snot otters!
First, you have no idea whose home you might be destroying when you start moving rocks around. If you’re in the eastern Appalachians (Georgia to New York) and you start moving river rocks around, there’s a good chance you’re going to kill a Hellbender, a two foot long salamander also known as a snot otter, a lasagna lizard or an Allegheny alligator.
You’ll never see a Hellbender. They hunt at night and snuggle under rocks during the day. Once they choose a rock home, they never leave. They can't make a new home. Move their rock, and they die faster than you can stack it on top of another one.
Why not just sit riverside and contemplate the magic of a two foot long salamander that lives under the same rock for the entirety of its 30 year life span?
And another thing (while I'm ranting)...
Second, why does everything have to be about humans? Why do we feel compelled to leave our mark everywhere. I know it’s not actual trash, like a Snickers wrapper or a beer can, but these collections of stacked up rocks, no matter how creative, have become litter, serving no other purpose than to say, “I, a human, was here.”
I don’t want to know humans were there. I know they were there. I’d rather see how well you cover your tracks, leave no trace, let wilderness just be.
If you must amend nature, design it to be mutable, so that nature reclaims itself. Work in a "quiet and subversive" way.
Like the artist Andrew Goldsworthy, who makes art with ice and stones and leaves. Then he releases his work to the forces of nature. The sun melts the ice. The tides scatter the driftwood. The water carries the leaves downstream. The rocks fall and are not stacked again. If it weren’t for the photos, no one would know Mr. Goldsworthy was there.
Make it mean something
And, his work moves beyond making pointless cairns that don't lead anywhere. It’s time to uplevel your work, rock stackers. Make something meaningful!
But if you must stack rocks, there's a trail crew in Maine that needs help building cairns and a parade of thru-hikers who will thank you for your work.