Balancing Rocks & Inspiration in Boulder Creek

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by Dora Hildebrand

Boulder Creek forms much of the natural beauty of downtown Boulder, Colorado. It is a popular summer recreational spot for many outdoor activities, including tubing, fly fishing, and wading. Boulder Creek is also home to a wide variety of odd shaped, multi-colored rocks of varying sizes. If you happen to be in the right place along the Creek at the right time you might have the pleasure of watching Michael Grab practice the ancient art of rock balancing.

A 2007 graduate of the University of Colorado, Grab started experimenting with rocks in Boulder Creek, more out of boredom than anything else. He paid close attention to the texture and shape of each rock as he taught himself the art of balancing one rock on another to create a stone sculpture. Over the past five years he has developed a keen sense of what rocks will balance with each other. He loves playing with the rocks and always pushes the limits of what is possible.

Watching him craft his art, one becomes aware of his total immersion in the experience of the moment. He seemingly allows the sound of the flowing water and his connection with the rocks to block out all that is happening around him. As he patiently places one rock on top of the other, he moves them about to find just the right balance point. At the perfect moment he somehow senses that he can let go of the sculpture and all expectations of the outcome. That, according to Grab, is when the magic occurs.

Without a doubt, the finesse required to create a majestic multi-stone sculpture demands an immense amount of patience that allows him to find the perfect point of contact where balance is possible. Grab says, “There is always such an inspiring feeling when I create a certain design through rock balance; it just happens, and my intuition identifies the beauty immediately.”

When you see the odd-shaped rocks precariously perched atop one another, it is difficult to believe that gravity is the only glue holding the sculpture in place… until you see it gently collapse. The rocks return to the water and the sculpture is gone. Rather than being left with a mere memory of the beauty he has just created, Grab usually photographs or videotapes his art as soon as it is complete.

In 2012, Grab took a leap of faith, quit his job and today enjoys a successful career as a rock balancing artist and photographer. He has also begun teaching this art form to others. He starts each day by connecting with an online community of fans and other rock balancers via his blog at www.gravityglue.com and his Gravity Glue page on Facebook, posting his videos on www.youtube.com, and handling orders for his photography. Afternoons are for creating — for connecting with his rocks. Weather permitting, you can usually find Grab at his favorite spot along Boulder Creek going for that perfect balance, more complex and fulfilling than all the others.

He is absolutely in love with what he’s doing. Last year he traveled to Italy to participate in the first International Rock Balancing Festival. This summer he will be crafting his art in Sweden. Yes, for Grab, balancing rocks is more than a business. It is a way of life.

_Dora Hildebrand, co-founder of Spellbinders Oral Storytellers, Larimer County, is also a writer, family history enthusiast and blogger at www.dorahildebrand.wordpress.com.