Stacking Stones

In my last post I talked about our annual Family Retreat at La Casa de Maria. This time I’ll share a secret family ritual that we have enjoyed during the retreat over the years.

Afternoons at La Casa are less structured than the mornings and evenings so one afternoon we grab our kids and head down to the beach for some family time. A number of years ago we found that someone had stacked stones to make a series of freeform temporary sculptures. Since I’m an architect and my wife and kids are all artistically inclined, we took the opportunity to make some sculptures of our own. Years later, what started as an impulse is now a favorite time of the week because it’s a chance to simply be ourselves.

As I look at the photos of this year’s creativity, I realize that stacking stones is an apt metaphor for what we do in life. No two sculptures are ever alike because the stones demand different solutions. No two people will stack the stones in the same way.┬áThere’s inherent risk and reward. Do you pick the safe placement that will withstand the wind and inquisitive touch of passersby? Or do you build some crazy cantilever that may only have a moment of glory before clattering back to the sand below? Will you try to build the same tower over and over again because it worked once in the past? How do you build the same stack when the stones are all different?

It’s all about balance.

Of course, we don’t build our stacks in silence. ┬áThere’s the usual family banter of encouragement and criticism about the work at hand, but after a while the conversation drifts into important exchanges about our children’s lives. In recent years, as the relationship between parent and child has adapted to adulthood, these conversations have become more and more significant – how do we deal with the challenges of life, the joy, the sadness? How do we take risks? Do we lean on our family when we need to?

How do we stack our stones?