Thursday, May 5, 2011

Go Time.

Three and a half tons and whaddya get ...
I've got 7,300 lbs of stone piled up in my front yard. Actually, the pile is probably mostly on Betty's lawn. She's a very understanding neighbor, and by now realizes that I aim to make the house look so much nicer than it did when it was occupied by 20 years of renters (to include 8 years of housing the UVM hockey team).

My brother, Josh, and I went to the sand and gravel pit on Monday and loaded them all into the truck by hand. It took us about two hours. In the process of screening out piles and piles of earth into smaller and smaller grades of sand and gravel, these beauties get discarded into massive heaps. To a stone mason, these become piles of precious jewels. We climb up and down, discarding those that won't stack well and pick the best ones ... coveting them for a second like Gollum and his precious before tossing them into the truck. We try to place them in relation to their size. The largest land toward the cab and the smallest toward the tailgate. Then, when they arrive to my front yard and we dump the bed, those that will get used first end up accessible on the top of the pile.

At least that's the plan. I'll end up dismantling this pile soon enough as I look for that next stone that fits in the spot I've created for it with the stones that have been placed before.

If you were to find yourself at my friend Charley's work site, you'd see rows of stones neatly lined up according to the functionality of the stone itself. And, for those of you in Chittenden County, Charley is still quite in business and would be the only stone mason I could recommend to you for work you might have in mind for your own property.

But I like a pile. I like looking into the pile and spinning each stone around itself with my mind. Like I'm looking three pieces ahead in a game of Tetris to plan how that piece will fit within the layers I've already created. I've always been good about this sort of visual manipulation. It's a genetic gift handed down to me from my mother who can pack an RV to the absolute fullest for a week long journey through the state parks of Wisconsin. And, then, she'll recall just where every piece resides as each of her four sons peppers her with specific requests for the Simon game, a deck of cards, or the raspberry Pop Tarts. (I embellish here a little bit. My mom would never allow Pop Tarts). Ask my family about the requirements I have for loading the dishwasher.

And of all the stones I've been asked to use, I like these best. These are the glacially deposited stones that would have eventually worked their way to the top and into the fields that farmers plowed hundreds of years ago. These are the very stones that became the boundary walls between properties. They feel "right" as I stack them into a wall today ... a wall that will well outlast me. So much more appropriate than the pallets of stone shipped here from out of state. And so much more appropriate than the boxes of manufactured stone purchased from the large box stores. Do yourself a favor if you're considering any stone work for your own home. Hire a crafts-person who knows the trade to either build from local stone or to teach you the fundamental principles involved with dry stone walling. You'll be well rewarded and will understand, within a matter of a few minutes of handling the stone yourself, why this just makes sense.

I walk by this pile of stone each day I leave my house and walk to work. And then, again, when I return at the end of the day. This weekend, I'll select the first stone from that pile that will begin the transformation from pile to wall. I'll be deliberate as I place myself in the zone ... one stone at a time ... and begin the work of creation. It'll feel awkward at first, like the first few steps that lead into the warm up mile of any run. And then I'll find my groove ... and my pace ... and I'll let it happen.

And I'll share what I come across along the way.

1 comment:

  1. your work intrigues me a great deal. some people just don't understand the satisfaction that can come from two hands and the earth. my favorite part of Boston Marathon morning is gazing at all the stone walls leading to Hopkinton.