26 May 2010

Cairns: Lovely Piles of Rocks

Still Breathing has endured as one of my favorite films since I first saw it about a decade ago. Brendan Fraser plays a San Antonio musician, Fletcher, whose father and grandfather both had visions of the women that were meant for them and subsequently found and married them. Fletcher finally experiences his own vision of his bride and he travels to L.A.'s Formosa Cafe to find her. There he encounters Rosalyn, played by Joanna Going. She is a con artist who mistakes him for her next mark and sets about seducing him. Intensely pursuing her but determined not to sabotage their relationship by rushing things, Fletcher eventually breaks down Rosalyn's defenses. During a stroll down a tree-lined street, he pauses to tell her about how he builds cairns. He takes her hand, palm up, and piles several little stones on it to commemorate the moment they are sharing together. Soon after, he tips her hand and lets the stones fall. Cairns aren't built to last but rather to punctuate a moment in time.

I have since built a few cairns of my own while walking along Wissahickon Creek in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park. Its meditative effect makes it the perfect way to shed city life stresses. Part of the fun is trying to build something that looks like it shouldn't be able to stay standing. Balancing it on the edge of a boulder or leaving a space at the center that you can see through makes it more than just a pile of rocks. Each structure is so precarious that I always know when it has reached its limit. Usually I'll continue on my walk until I'm on the other side of the creek and then I'll watch people's reactions as they discover the cairn. Dogs and children are particularly fascinated by these unexpected art installations in the wild.

Definition: cairn 
Pronunciation: \ˈkern\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English (Scots) carne, from Scottish Gaelic carn; akin to Old Irish & Welsh carn cairn

Date: 15th century
: a heap of stones piled up as a memorial or as a landmark (Merriam-Webster)

The tallest cairn I've managed so far.

As a seller on Etsy, I love browsing at what is on offer from artists and vintage lovers around the world. It turns out that my love of cairns is shared by a number of them. Here are a few that captured my attention.

Moss Terrariums' Cairn Terrarium No 1

Made for Fun's Bottle Stopper

Leaping Gazelle's Sea Cairn

Jibby and Juna's Cairn Illustration Pendant

AntiGenre's Cairn Ring

Groundwork's Cairn No. 3--Limited Edition Print
 (which I also happen to have framed in my bedroom)

Jenifer Glagowski's Original--Orange on Grey

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