Simple Homage

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 20, 2007 | Categories: Lesbian in a Catholic Sort of Way

On January 4th the Shelter Island Reporter featured a picture of a cairn (similar to the one shown here), constructed of concentric layers of stone that taper to a point at the top. Four driftwood posts run through it, creating a spiral pattern around the shaft, and the interior is filled with rocks. If you lean on the cairn it won’t budge.

The creator had hoped to remain anonymous, but was eventually discovered to be Gary Buckner, a social studies teacher at a local high school. He built the cairn from materials he found on the beach and worked on it each weekend in December, saying he put in a few meditative hours after sunrise and sometimes “at the setting of the day.”

Several people have likened the cairn to work by the environmental sculptor Andy Goldsworthy; Mr. Buckner said he didn’t intend to create a piece of art. It was a homage, he said, to its location, a peaceful ribbon of shore where the water slides smoothly inland and cedar trees thrive in the sandy soil.

“I thought it was appropriate to leave an offering to a place where we all go,” he said. “We go when we’re angry and confused. We go for peace, for an answer, for understanding. We go there and then we leave, and that’s it. I wanted to leave something somewhat permanent.”

Buckner acknowledged that the cairn may be destroyed one day by nature or human hand. “I wanted it to be an observer of time and change. Even it its destruction, that’s time itself.”

The cairn has already changed. Visitors have stuck pieces of curled seashells and a long brown feather between the outer stones.

Lori and I see similar creations every weekend walking along the beach in Orient State Park. Stones placed in formation on top of driftwood logs; shells stuck in branches of dead cedar trees. There is one spot in particular with a lot of them. We call it “The Haunted Forest.”

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