There is a sign at the intersection of Fifth and Haynes in Midway that says Stop of Interest. That sign was actually put up to point visitors toward the Entwined Trees in the park that sits just half a block north.
But there is another stop of interest on the same corner—the rock garden of Norm Ohlhausen. In his garden the rocks seem to defy gravity as piles of stones are balanced into fascinating works of art. It seems that as they reach toward the sky they are held up by gravity.
Norm said most of the rocks came from “the pit” though many people drop off “cool rocks” they come across too. Like the fellow from Alberta who stopped the first time he saw the garden; the next year when he was travelling through he brought a few unique rocks from Alberta to give to Norm.
Norm says he has been balancing stones for a long time—something he began doing long before he moved here a few years ago.
He explains his motivation as twofold. It provides exercise for a back injury that forced him to retire early. He also uses the rock garden to cover the most difficult to mow parts of his lawn. There is an obvious meditative quality to the work too.
If you walk the Trans-Canada-Trail near Midway or take a hike on the Midway trail network you will come across other stones piled where Norm has been. “Wherever I happen to go I mark the spot – that’s where I stopped and turned around or just where I saw some funky rocks.”
The garden is a work in progress too. In 2012 there were only half a dozen of the pieces of art; now the yard is filled with them.
Aside from the obvious challenge of earthquakes there are other hazards as well – birds, deer and the odd severe rainstorm are the biggest challenges. In the winter water will freeze in the cracks and cause the structures to shift out of balance.
Looking closely at them you will see that Norm uses more than just stones and rocks in his balancing. There are all kinds of unique things: railway spikes he’s found on the rail grade, oddly shaped or coloured rocks, broken lengths of drill core and a piece of jaw bone found while on a hike.
He says he takes the rocks as they come – looking always for the right piece to both balance itself and support the whole.
It takes anywhere from 20 minutes to four hours to build one. If gravity does take one down it doesn’t stay down for long. Norm says when one falls down another will go up.
Norm also suggested the website as a great place to learn more: www.gravityglue.com