Recently, while beach combing, artist and friend Jim Olarte had a vision of his handmade macramé strung up and hanging across the opening of the rock arch at his favorite beach combing spot. He spent weeks collecting weathered nylon rope reclaimed from old lobster traps and then spent several more weeks knotting the colorful textured cords into large scale intricate panels. On Tuesday, October 6, he gathered an eclectic group of friends and family to help install and document the work. Ten of us came together at 7 a.m. and made the trek along the slippery rocks and knee-deep tide pools carrying heavy bundles of cameras and macramé, and doing our best not to slip or fall on the jagged rocks.
When we finally reached the arch the sky was a brilliant blue and the tides were beginning to drop. Jim, his son Lennon, and his friend photographer Joe Scarnici unpacked the macramé and began the process of swimming the rolled up bundles out to the backside of the enormous rock where it could be carried up. We all watched from the shoreline and held our breath as Jim crawled onto a precarious outcropping, straddled the massive rock and tied one end of a long piece of nylon rope to it as waves crashed against the sharp rocks thirty feet below. He and Joe then strung the rope through the macramé panels and dropped them into position.
It looked amazing swaying in the breeze with the ends just barely kissing the ocean’s surface, and everyone watching cheered. But Jim, being the design and detail obsessive that he is, didn’t smile. He was unsatisfied with the positioning and the height. The heavy panels were hauled back up and Jim crawled back out on the outcropping where he untied and repositioned the anchoring rope. Again the macramé was lowered into place and again Jim didn’t smile. Once more he climbed out onto the rock to untie and relocate the anchoring line and again the weight of the macramé was lowered into place and tied off. Jim looked at it, walked onto the arch and lay down on the edge of the rock so he could reach over and make a slight adjustment to the panels. When he stood up and looked at the installation a lightness could be seen in his posture as a giant smile filled his face and he gestured excitedly to his assistants.
Jim has an energy and enthusiasm that is infectious and it seemed as though everyone who was watching caught it as we all jumped into the unseasonably warm water and swam out to join them on the rock. Another smaller piece was hung on the backside of the arch that was much less time and labor intensive and was finished by the time we reached them. There were hugs and smiles and then like a lemming ritual suicide pact each of us flung ourselves from the top of the rock and plunged 30 feet into the water below before swimming back to the shore and packing up. With one last look before making the slippery hike back up the coast the rock arch now appeared more like a mythical temple. The colorful macramé swung back and forth like an offering to the sea spirits that dwell there—spirits who will undoubtedly appreciate the offering before ripping it down, consuming it, and like all great land art giving us a lesson in the law of impermanence and the ephemeral nature of all things.