Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tao of the rocks on Ellison Bay

Many people think of an expansive white sandy shore line when they think about going to the beach.  But not all beaches are made of 'sand', and not all sands are white.  I've walked on 'black sand' beaches made from tiny bits of lava, and 'pink sand' beaches made from coral.  I spent many summers on the rocky beaches along the north shore of Long Island, but the beaches on Ellison Bay were different still.

Door Peninsula is made from Silurian Dolomite of the Niagara Escarpment.  In some places, the bluffs along the bay are 200 feet high.  Silurian Dolomite is hard, and fractures horizontally and vertically.  This makes it a good rock for building structures, like the School House.  They also readily crack off the cliff sides along the bay, and formed a sandless beach.  Piles and piles of roughly square rocks are a enormous temptation to the builder inside most people.  There were man-made stacks of rocks as far as the eye could see.

The general term for a man-made pile of stones is 'cairn'.  Cairns were used to mark trails, landmarks, serve as a monument, or act as a protective entity.  The 2010 winter Olympics in Canada introduced the world to 'inuksuk'.  An Inuit word meaning "something which acts for or performs the function of a person".  Often rock stacks are made to resemble to human form.  So often, in fact, that there are words for these rock forms in several languages:
  • inunnguaq - Inuit meaning "imitation of a person"
  • steinmann - German meaning "stone man"
  • steenman - Dutch meaning "stone man"
  • ometto - Italian meaning "small man"
Some of the cairns on the shore of Ellison Bay could be called 'inunnguaq', others are just 'inuksuk'.  But as the rays of the setting sun washed over them, standing on the shore facing out to sea they all remind me of 'Sea marks'.  

The question remains, Do they protect the shore from the ships, or the ships from the shore?  

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