Freedom. Jan. 18, 2010

One Wednesday afternoon I was preparing to teach my painting class down at East Beach. In my search, I came across this homeless man down by the Mission Creek outlet. He was spending his time collecting riverbed stones, and stacking them like stalagmites in various groupings all over the creek bed outlet. There must have been 30 to 40 stacks of rocks piled, like a community of people frozen in time; a miniature Easter Island.

I've seen small stacks of rocks in places in nature, where people stacked them with the intention of paying homage to and appreciating the moment, but I've never seen anything like this. It was amazing; the way he grouped the formations together and individually created a surreal environment. To me, they looked like sculptures depicting an ancient race of people; the land that time forgot.

In conversing with the gentleman I asked him about his craft and life and where he learned to do this, 'stacking'. He told me he grew up near a rock quarry (somewhere back East}, and that was where he developed the skill to stack rocks.

I called the Santa Barbara News Press to see if they would send out a photographer to photograph this extraordinary installation, but alas, I could muster no support from them. (I guess my presentation wasn't passionate, or enthusiastic enough).

So anyway, I asked the man if he would let me take his picture. He agreed, and then climbed into the middle of one of his small communal grouping of stones, and sat down to pose. To this day, I don't know who he was, but I do know he was out there that day, homeless, creating; free as a bird.

To me he represented a physicist, geologist, an engineer, a poet, a sculptor, and anthropologist. Spending this day on Earth creating art for art sake. Leaving behind a temporary legacy to inspire and influence, hopefully, one individual, or at least spark the imagination of onlookers.

One never knows what magic he will discover if he lives, eats, and breaths a life of creativity. And one must never judge a homeless person, for they too have a story, and may harbor skills, way beyond our imagination.