Sunday, September 07, 2008


One of my favorite places is Pescadero State Beach, at Pescadero, CA, on the Pacific coast some miles south of Half Moon Bay. The park also contains salt marshlands which include a bird and wildlife sanctuary. From the many times I have spent days and evenings at Pescadero, I have seen sea lions, seals, great blue heron, brown pelican, many kinds of gulls, and lots of other wildlife. On this trip, I camped at Butano State Park, just inland, which consists of a canyon and mountain of giant redwood trees, and spent most of two days and one evening at Pescadero.

Geologically, the outcrops that run into the ocean at Pescadero clearly show the layers of sedimentary rock—rust red and brown and tan sandstones, siltstones, and conglomerates—overlaying the massed ophiolitic peridotites and olivines—blue, gray, slate and dark green in color—interlaced with white quartz intrusions, that are the remnants of oceanic spreading ridges. California's coastline and coastal mountain ranges can be accurately regarded as "glop," as I've heard one geologist put it: the land is composed of numerous island arcs made by seafloor spreading slamming one after another into the edge of the crustal plates, accumulating here as rammed-together masses. Island arc after island arc has underthrust and pushed up against the sedimentary and metamorphic remnants of older mountains.

Where one finger of land thrusts out into the ocean, there is an archway that has been carved from the sedimentary layers on top of the ophiolites. This is one of my favorite places. It is where I found my first dreamstone, lying wet in a tidal pool at low tide, near the arch. Since then, I have collected many other dreamstones here, and from a few other locations along the Pacific shore, where the right combination of rocks, tidal forces, angle of repose, and other forces combine to make these stones that nature has carved perfectly round holes into.

I have made several pieces of land art sculpture at Pescadero since 2004. These are ephemeral pieces made from materials lying at hand—the rounded ovoid and disc-flat stones, dreamstones, driftwood, etc.—that time and tide eventually destroy. They are not meant to endure. All that remains are my photographs of each piece.

This visit, I made a new piece, Orientations: Direction Finder (Garden of Stones)—the long title comes from the fact that several of these land art works are done in series, and this one seemed to fit into two of ongoing series—consisting of several flat round obelisks set on end, and an arrangement of dreamstones found that day. Flat rocks stood up on their sides, perpendicular to dreamstones propped to look through, to look out to sea.

At one point before I could finish the arrangement, a rogue wave flooded in, knocked over a few of the flat stones, and swept out to sea again. I happened to catch the wave in a photo sequence. I rebuilt the arrangement, then shot some more photos and video. I took only one or two of the dreamstones with me this time, and left the rest of the arrangement in place, to be removed later by the tide.

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

I have spent huge chunks of my life wandering up and down beaches and never comes across dreamstones as you call them. Fascinating. I did find a fossilised sponge in the local river that became known as 'Jimmy's brain' but that's been about it.

3:28 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

The conditions for their creation are specific and not universal. I've heard there's a beach in Cornwall, I think, but I haven't been there, so I don't know for sure. There are three or four places along the Pacific coast where I have found them, Pescadero being the prime one.

It needs a shallow beach, a strong tide and strong waves, rocks and sand together, and all the other right conditions.

The stones themselves are simply beautiful.

11:07 AM  

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