Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Holding hands.




My hands held things all day today. They not only held rocks of all sizes and shapes to carry them to the wall we are building, but they also held chisels of all sizes and hammers of all sizes. Some hammers took two hands to hold. Everything I held required that my hands worked together. They never argued with each other or worked against each other. They augmented each other's capacity to split rocks and fit difficult stones together and basically get things done.

We talk about the way a thing 'holds'. A temporary wedge under a stone 'holds' until we find a better shaped one to fill the gap properly. A wooden handle 'holds' the head that is fitted tightly onto it. The batter-frame 'holds' the string-lines taunt while we sight down the wall. The whole wall holds together because we have built it well by maximizing the friction between each stone we have placed in the wall. We have made use of stone's three great properties, it's tremendous weight, it's great compressive strength and it's relative immutability.

Hands add another important capacity for holding dry stone walls together. Their flexibility. This flexibility is what is transfered to the structure of the wall when we don't use mortar. The wall becomes alive. It can move. It can yield to the forces of nature without breaking and falling apart. A wall holds, for all these reasons, and hopefully it holds for a long time. My grip gets tired after a while. My hands need to take breaks. But the wall goes on holding. A day of me constantly holding and letting go of things is translated into years and years of stones holding together. I am ok with this exchange of 'states 'of holding, like some metaphysical equation. I am pleased with my investment of energy, my holdings. Everything is held in place, because nothing is withheld.

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