KSTP TV 5 “On the Road with Jason Davis”

Some works of art have no intrinsic value. They are there just for the moment, a statement by a human being to whoever sees them, and it's up to the viewer to decide what they mean. Jason Davis found some very good examples in the woods and tracked down the man who made them.

The lone figure of Joel Carter is a familiar sight along the banks of Chester Creek in Duluth, Minnesota but he is not here just for the exercise he is a man with a purpose.

Joel Carter: "Life is quite short. And I think in the last number of years I've thought that I'd really like to show up for all the moments of my life."

Joel shows up in this beautiful park for a reason that seems strange and quixotic to many people. He's here to practice a philosophy he learned several years ago from a Native American mystic named Guy Red Owl.

Joel Carter: "Listen to the rocks."

The peaceful sights and sounds of the Chester Creek are a far cry from the workaday world of Doctor Joel Carter, emergency room physician at St. Luke's Hospital in Duluth.

"We have very powerful medicines, we have thrombolytics and we have expensive anti-hypertensive and we can shock people back to life. But I've come to see that the most powerful medicine there is - is choice. The choices that people make in their lives. "

Eight-hour shifts in this extremely high stress environment leave Dr. Joel Carter emotionally drained and physically exhausted. So his choice is to work only part time. Other moments are spent building his strange and evocative rock cairns anywhere he can find enough raw material.

"I've learned an awful lot about being lost in the moment of creativity. Sometimes it's hard to be creative as a physician." "Maybe it's about making a mark.

Maybe it's about bringing some of the rocks to life. And it's amazing as some of them have character and personality."

Rock sculptures like this have been built by various cultures around the world for centuries. They are most plentiful in the Arctic where they are an important part of the Inuit tradition called 'inuksuit'. They have meant different things to different people but to Joel Carter They bring a whole new meaning to the word "patients."

"Some of these balancing things you think shouldn't be possible. And to me that's a little lesson to life that maybe some of the things we don't think could be possible actually are if we are willing to try and be patient with ourselves. Patient with other people. Patient with our relationships. Patient with life."

Joel Carter is a patient man. As fast as he builds these improbable structures someone comes along and knocks them over.

Joel Carter: "A victim of the rock stalker.

Jason Davis: "The rock stalker?"

Joel: "The rock stalker got that one."

Some of Joel's creations last a few days. Many are destroyed within hours. He says it doesn't matter.

Joel: "You appreciate the moment of them being around."

Jason: "The second time you've built this one."

Joel: "The second time, and maybe you never know I'll have another opportunity."

Jason Davis/On the Road: "Someone is bound to come along and push this Over but they should know that the Inuit say that anyone who destroys an inuksuit shortens their own life."

Joel's rock figures only exist for a few fleeting moments of time but he has learned to photograph each one, for him to remember and others to share.

"There are some that are my favorites and those are the ones that are saved and made into prints. And so they are gone but they are still with me."

"It's about maybe having people listen to their own rocks and their own lives and learn what the rocks have to teach them. They've taught me an awful lot."

Jason Davis/On the Road: "The best part of having one's life up in the air is it gives one a great view of everything else." That's a sample of Joel Carters simple philosophical writings recently published in a couple of new books: 'Rock People', which has a lot of photos of his sculptures, and 'Lava Lamp Lessons', about the emergency room.You can get 'Rock People' at most bookstores.Learn more on his website: www.rockpeople.org or e-mail him at joel_dlh@yahoo.ca

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS' long running “On the Road” news franchise is spinning off into a new half-hour weekly television program. Uncovering the intriguing stories of fascinating local people and places, “5 EYEWITNESS NEWS On the Road with Jason Davis” airs every Saturday at 10:35 p.m in Minnesota. With a keen eye on amazing and extraordinary individuals, Jason draws from a 25-year track record of filing more than 2,500 stories from more than 35 countries. His team, focused exclusively on this new program, will bring viewers something new to the local television landscape with deeper insight, edge and perspective into the interesting lives and lifestyles of our region.