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November 27, 2013

Much to love about walls

(Continued)

I have dabbled with some stonework up here on the hill. Quite some time ago two boys from the village helped me “harvest” stone from an old well back in the woods behind our house. We had a great time rifling through the rubble of stone looking for appropriate candidates. Eventually, we hauled out enough to build a two-tiered garden down by the barn. So far it as stood the test of time. I had read a few books by accomplished stonemasons. I took one principle to heart: one on two, two on one. It is a necessary balancing act that assures the integrity of the wall. Finding the proper balance among things is not limited to stone walls.

A few years later I started collecting stone for a seventy-foot long, curved wall at the base of the bank behind our house. I do not buy stone. Too cheap. Besides, if I did, I would have no excuse to prolong what is a very rewarding activity. Why rush completing something that provides one with so much pleasure? Next to being part of the crew that built our house, stonework is among the most spiritually uplifting things I have ever done. One run of the wall is finished. The last run is a work in progress. At present it tapers down to about a foot at its lowest level. Some friends have suggested I leave it as is. I could, but that would not synch with my original conception of the project. Over time I have collected small batches of stone, especially while walking our back hill – and when working logs for firewood. Scattered about the woods are min- cairns waiting to be collected up and transported to the wall. On occasion I will discover a nice big flat stone, tuck it up under my arm, and walk down the hill to the wall and place it in just the right spot. It is as if it were waiting up there to be found. Mostly, I end up with small piles that find there way into the wall when the spirit moves me.

The beauty of stonework is its concreteness. In a time when our lives are so often cluttered by fleeting intangibles, having something tangible to call one’s own is an existential gift. One need not be a talented artist to make stuff. Standing back and looking at something you have built, that is a monument to your effort – well, that is a beautiful thing.

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