Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I’m come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Beginning sometime in late 2011, people began going to a portion of the beach in Galveston, Texas and building things. They began building cairns, stacks of stones. It is wonderful public art and an expression of creativity. I mean if God gives you rocks you make cairns right?
Cairns themselves have a long history. Stacks of stones to commemorate special events, special places, to mark the burial ground of someone important, or to mark the way on the path date back to early man. Cairn is a Celtic word but the object itself cuts across cultures and time. People have been building memories and marking extraordinary places for a long time.
“Here I raise mine Ebenezer,” comes from an evangelical hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” The idea that the author expresses in the words comes from an Old Testament passage, I Samuel 7:12. “Samuel took a single rock and set it upright between Mizpah and Shen. He named it “Ebenezer” (Rock of Help), saying, “This marks the place where God helped us.” (From the translation, “The Message”) Samuel built a cairn to remember God’s help. When I was walking through the area looking at the cairns and photographing them, that song came to mind.
We all need places to remember, places to mark the way in our lives. We even say I have reached “a milestone.” People used to put down stacks of rocks to mark how far a mile was. We remember the marks along the way and arrive safely home. Besides that, God knows we all need a little help sometime. Perhaps the simple act of stacking stones becomes a simple way of saying grace.
I have no idea about the motivation for the cairns that began appearing on the beach, but who cares really? What matters is that people stop and take moments to stack stones and remember. What are they remembering or forgetting? Is their particular story under every rock? I think it is.
What photography does is allow us to participate in their art. Then just for a moment we can write our own story about why those stones, that shape and form, become a memory and a help. The blog posts in this series will remember what these creative people have built on a rocky stretch of beach.
I invite you to write your own story about one of the photos in the comment box below.
For more of my photographs see www.mcaleerphotoart.com. You can purchase these and other pictures from my website.