Once Needham and I met, it was obvious we were of this same eccentric tribe which seems to have been called and gathered by the Tao of rocks during that winter storm. Needham began to create a rock stack monument for me to demonstrate his style, skill, technique, and mastery of the sacred art of rock stacking. He does a silent meditation, followed by shaking off ego body. Needham literally shakes his hands and body to loosen up and be fully receptive to the energy of the rock. He focuses and moves about the rocks picking them up to stack them higher than he stands. The monument he built for me was almost seven feet tall.
As he places a heavy boulder on top of the rocks that are stacked, all the rocks begin shifting under the added weight. Suddenly, there is this fluid dance where all the rocks are shifting, rolling, moving, and adjusting. It looks very snake like as it is fluid in motion. Needham uses his knees, his body, his shoulders and chin to settle the rocks down as he is listening intently for that still point of perfect balance. All at once, all motion stops, the rocks are still, perfectly, sacredly, silently motionless, and still. It is a deafening moment of silence. It only lasts a moment because once that point of perfect stillness is in place, Needham sets about responding to being called by the next rock that will begin the dance all over again. Once the rock stack has become completed by the dozen or so boulders that comprise it, sometimes it wants to be topped by some smaller topping rocks in stark contrast to the immense boulders beneath it. The huge rocks that Needham builds with are probably close to the one hundred pound category. These rocks were massively enormous.
Needham explained that there are days when some rocks do not choose to be moved. In a sense they do not choose to cooperate or become part of a certain rock stack, and they become sort of stuck to the earth, unmoveable. The very next day, with another rock stack in formation, the same rock may call to him and be very participatory and eager to be in that rock stack and will indeed participate in being moved. I also have had this experience of the weight of the rocks being variable. It is much more mystical and definite than my personal variations in strength and energy from day to day. The rocks themselves either cooperate or refuse depending upon a wide range of influences and choices.
Needham says the essential attitude in getting the rocks to balance is a matter of faith, of believing (James, 1997). Needham's rock stacks are being shown in several local museums, art galleries, and along several paths around Carmel Village and Monterey. Needham has been inspired by the works of Frank Lloyd Wright, Andy Goldsworthy, and Isamu Noguchi. His first series of rock stacks was entitled "Gravity at Work" (James). When I was interviewing Needham, he said "One of the most important things to remember is that this is all silly." Spoken deeply, authentically, and irreverently sacred, exactly as a true Zen master speaks. Oh the subliminal joys of listening to and hearing such playfully deep wisdom.