The Balancing Act of Art (and Life)

by Donna McLaughlin Schwender

“All I know for sure is that it took so long that I almost gave up several times. Not because I was doubtful of the possibility. Rather, I was certain of its possibility.” ~Michael Grab

Michael Grab at Work

I do not use the word “awestruck” lightly. In fact, if I was to rely on the most common definition which references having mixed emotions of both wonder and fear, it would be difficult for me to even think of other times in my life when that word would be applicable. All of that changed though when a dear friend of mine (thank you Ginny!) recently introduced me to the online world of Michael Grab, a self-professed Rock Balancer.

Instead of me trying to adequately describe just what it is that Michael does and how it is that he left me so awestruck, I implore you to PLEASE take three minutes and fifty-five seconds out of your busy life to watch firsthand the video below of his “work.” Fair warning though (especially for Type A personalities) – be patient and do NOT take your eyes off what he’s doing. I can honestly say that, the first time I watched this, I not only “saw” the second everything came together, but I literally “felt” it deep within. I was NOT expecting either. In a nanosecond, my shrunken heart that had been fearing a collapse almost burst from the soul-expanding wonder of witnessing something that seems to defy all possibility of existing. Enter…..awestruck.

Right about now, you’re probably sitting there – like I initially was – debating whether or not some “rock balancing guy” is worth an investment of the precious time that it will take you to view the video and/or to finish reading this blog post about him. Let me provide you with a little more insight about Michael before you make that critical decision.

One of his core beliefs about what he does is, “it’s all about presence in the moment. SLOW down. Become the balance.” If you do watch the video (or perhaps you already did – hooray for you!), you almost get a sense of time frozen, perhaps due to Michael’s intense – almost meditative – patience with the process. Patience that had me both breathless and squirming in my seat.

Michael is so much more though than rocks, balance, and patience. In his February 5th, 2013 blog post (entitled “Following the Heart’s Intuition”), he begins with a meme quote (author unknown to him, but I believe it to be Lawrence Pearsall Jacks) that he saw on Facebook and that stated, “The person who is a master in the art of living makes little distinction between their work and their play. Their labor and their leisure, their mind and their body……They hardly know which is which. They simply pursue their vision of excellence and grace in whatever they do, leaving others to decide whether they are working or playing. To them, they are always doing both.” In his own words, he goes on to say that, “I can’t emphasize enough the value of following your own sacred intuition…those deep down feelings and spiritual excitements. By doing this I have learned to relax in the face of uncertainty, to exist in the moment more easily and thoroughly. Balancing rocks teaches many disciplines. The balance pictured here (photo below) took about an hour, maybe two, to realize. All I know for sure is that it took so long that I almost gave up several times. Not because I was doubtful of the possibility. Rather, I was certain of its possibility.”

Michael Grab's Rock Tower

And that – THAT – is why I felt I had to share Michael and his work/art with the world, in whatever way I could. Not because he and I both have a love affair with the artist nature of stones, but because of his unyielding belief that art is possible in even the most unlikeliest of forms.

This is a guy who literally immerses himself in his work. He also not only realizes – but accepts – the fleeting nature of all that we create. As a writer, I personally can learn a lot from a young man like that.

When he talks about “find[ing] a zero point or silence within [him]self,” I imagine how that translates into my own need to sit patiently at my desk while I find my own starting/balance point to begin constructing the (hopefully) rock-solid foundation of my next piece. When he discusses how “…rocks collaborate into an extremely complex system of balance. One piece slightly adjusted by fractions of a millimeter will yield collapse…,” I realize how every word I write ties into the next one and how my editing has the power to build the piece stronger, as well as to cause its destruction. “Slow down. Become the balance.” There really is no other way, is there?

I hope that you or someone you know – someone who is perhaps struggling with believing in the possibility of their own art and/or in finding the balance of that art within the context of the rest of their life – finds some inspiration in the magic that Michael creates. For additional motivation, be sure to check out his website, especially his portfolio that depicts some of his amazing “towers.” As for his “bridges” and “spheres” – oh my! You just have to see them for yourself. The good news is, you can also buy prints of his work.

One final note…..if you’re interested and if you can spare nine more minutes and fifteen seconds, I would highly recommend that you watch this other video. As the camera used for filming it is suspended directly from Michael’s head, it will let you experience the amazing process directly from his point of view. Art from yet another glorious angle…..