By: Julian Workman

Word on the Street Issue 42, April 2024

. . .

The foundation of a Cairn holds the most power for the shape of the final sculpture.

But what is a Cairn? Simply put, a Cairn is a stack of rocks whether a pile or tower. The act quite literally spans human history and the entire world. A simple act of stacking rocks interpreted in billions of ways and a staple across any religion, culture, or land. I write to give my interpretation, for you to interpret. 

Making a Cairn, for me, is simply an act of meditation. 

I started losing my mind and life, slowly. It came to its breaking point. I walked along the river thinking of some answer or way out of my predicament. But the stress kept building. The chaos of my mind at the time had the idea of making a Cairn in the back. But ignored it as “too simple, lacking civility.” I told myself it couldn’t hurt as I was already there. I walked to the river bank and started stacking. Thinking it was stupid, and getting mad that the rocks kept falling. That was when a thought crossed my mind. “Getting mad at a simple act with rocks, is just plain stupid.” I laughed madly that I let such an act take me so, and so I earnestly began making a Cairn. No life-changing answers came. But the act forced me to think nonetheless. I came from the river, satisfied. I was content with my situation. 

A physical act of meditation. An act I thought as simple was now more. It was/is difficult. You force yourself to control your emotions while unknotting them at the same time. I don’t have music playing. I enjoy the “ritual” so to speak. The simplicities that surround me made me more aware. The wind that makes the leaves whistle, the ducks and their bantering, and the slight disturbance reaching your shore. You’re forced to be in the moment, but only by yourself. Your hands, chosen to be dirty to accomplish a feat. 

To think if a rock has a lip, sand, leaves, or if it’s just wet. All chosen on a small whim. You bask in your surroundings, infatuated by an act of stacking rocks. You stand satisfied at your accomplishment knowing it will fall, as all things do. 

Much thinking can be drawn by the act and during the act, but that drawing is yours–literally and mentally. It exemplified my sympathy for the moment. Or simply, I now realize how satisfying being in that moment is. To appreciate each fleeting present. To appreciate what has been, and what will be.

Although young, I realize the footprint I can leave, but what type of footprint will that be? Will that footprint last or pass? All will become past, but that doesn’t matter. My meaning is much more in the present. That I can change and that I can make change. 

It is not enough to make a change effortlessly–it is the stones and I that create this opportunity of change.