Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
It seems that some days I can be in the zone and other days I'm not. Some days my hands know exactly what to do and other days they fumble and hesitate and don't make very good choices. They can pick up several stones before they discover the right one to go in the next space in the wall. This is not very efficient. It is also frustrating. Often being out of the zone is a matter of being too crowded. If the stones you are using are too near the wall there is no room to work. If all the stones you have to choose from are all piled up on top of each other this makes for awkward working conditions too. Sometimes the ambient noise is distracting. Music can put you out of the zone as often as it can glide you into it. Ironically 'rock music' is not always the best music for working to. Weather is sometimes a factor. However cold wet weather isn't always a problem and one can be 'in the zone' in the most adverse conditions. Conversely one can be out of the zone when absolutely all the working conditions are ideal.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
The Dry Stone Waller Revisits Spring's Surfacing Fieldstones
Before stones of eggs hatch feathered heads
or tadpoles eel from gel-a-ti-nous embryos,
fieldstones crown the brown, thawing ground
and, after decades of mid-wifing stones,
I'm so smitten with my youthful marvel exhumed
in desiring, like a child around puppies,
to lift each newborn up, turn them over,
and run hands over wet heads and torsos,
that, over supper, my wife spies the young buck
who, long ago, abruptly frostheaved her life
and, that evening, she loves me so much
that, as I thust up and up and up in lust,
I'm like a rising stone given a second life,
and I welcome hands gripping my schist hips
before feet scamper the granite shoulders
and, when it's over, one warm fingertip
alights the forehead's cliff, slides down the
face-wall of the jowels, and, like the lost hiker
in the White Mountains, seems to know home
is somewhere close, now that she stares into
that familiar old-man-on-the-mountain nose.
A poem, by Dennis Camire, whose chapbook of poems about Dry Stone Walls (being published by Fishing Line Press) will be coming out shortly.
We had a meeting today with a number of people involved with the DSWAC who are all still very much interested in promoting the quality and type of dry stone activities our organization has made available here in Canada for the last ten years. It was gratifying to have such a positive enthusiastic group together and to find ourselves in agreement about certain key issues.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Friday, March 26, 2010
Walling isn't backbreaking. It is labour intensive, but it isn't really strenuous work. That's why it is always funny to hear people say things like "Boy, that looks like a lot of work ! " or, " I could never lift those stones and do the kind of work you guys do all day".
Thursday, March 25, 2010
But then I know it's growing high
It wasn't the string, whooo
The string seems to look lower
Who'd believe how we fly!
Hands, touching stones, reaching out
Touching one, touching two.
Oh, sweet 'Contour Line'
Good fits never seem so good
I've been inclined to believe it never would
And now I, I look at the wall, whooo
And it doesnt seem so stoney
We fill it up one over two, oh
And then we heart
Hearting up to the boulders
How can I heart when there's a 'thru'?
Oh, one, touching one, reaching out
Touching three, touching two.
Oh, sweet 'Contour Line'
Good fits never seem so tight
Oh I'd been inclined to believe it looks right.
Ohhh, sweet 'Contour Line', good fits never seem so good
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
At one time the expression "digitally manipulated" referred to moving things around by hand, using some or all of one's fingers (digits) to position things carefully . Nowadays it signifys the way a pixelated computer image has been enhanced or retouched using a software program like photoshop.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Sunday, March 21, 2010
He is seen here standing in front of a large section 'pointing' to the rest of the 250 feet of wall he has recently completely rebuilt. All the stones which are mostly mill gritstone including the large through-stones and heavier cams were lifted by 'hand' into place, using milk crates to stand on.
Martyn lives with his family in Kendal in Cumbria which is part of the lake district. He told me he enjoys working with his hands. His interests include restoring old boats, shooting the longbow and rock climbing. He spends every other weekend doing volunteer walling with other members of the DSWA repairing many of the walls in the area.
Martyn has a private business, Leaver Stonework and Paving, and explained to me that he does mortared work and cement 'pointing' as well as dry stone work. Like many other waller/masons Martyn admits that he loves building free-standing walls and prefers it far more to having to work with cement or doing flatwork. This preference seems to be the acid test amongst stoneworkers in Canada as well as Britain. To work with stone structurally, without adhesives or cements is far more satisfying and is considered a craft rather than a just a job. Martyn talked about hoping to visit us in Canada in the future to help 'lend a hand' and further strenghten ties between the DSWA Canada and the many wallers in Britain.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
There is an expression used for a certain kind of activity where someone does something positive or constructive for strangers without any reward, and for no particular reason. It's called a 'Random Act of Kindness'. Ive read about it and even seen bumper stickers encouraging this sort of thing. I think any wall that is in need of a little bit of repair could use this sort of thing.
It occurs to me that leaving a community with a newly repaired wall is kind of a 'random stack of kindness' The DSWA here in Britain makes a point of doing this sort of thing all the time. Volunteers go out and fix walls for the day, purely out of an appreciation for them and a desire to see them not all disappear from the British landscape.
I think of this as a type of "contra-vandalism". It is a way of us getting back at the chaos, destruction, meaningless and yes often bureaucratic red tape surrounding our lives. Its a way of doing something structural, beautiful and uplifting in our community without having to always jump through a myriad of administrative hoops to get it approved.
In fact, I'd like to be part of a guerrilla squad of dry stone wallers who take it even further, not just repairing walls (as we have so few of those in Canada) but build whole new walls and nice stone benches and small sections of old-looking dry stone gardens and beautiful enclosed areas of stone, all done covertly by an efficient group of volunteers during the night, and leave these stone 'features' to be 'discovered' the next day. Hopefully people would be happy to have something as wonderful as a natural stone wall to walk by . No doubt they would appreciate the added character to their park. In this way the dreary public places people pass by every day could be gradually transformed.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
DSWA secretary Alison Shaw met with her Canadian counterpart Mary Harris in the lounge of the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel to discuss new DSWA books and dry stone literature that we will be taking back to Canada to make available at our 2010 walling events. Alison has done a great job for the DSWA for some time now and has ran a very tight ship for them. We have been able to order a lot of very good dry stone literature from her over the last 8 years of our association. This time the walling books will be 'hand- delivered'.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
It was about 8 years ago that I saw my first dry stone bridge. My friend and colleague Norman Haddow took me to see this bridge which he had built using local stone in what seemed like quite a remote part of Scotland. It was based on the bridge at Glenn Lion which he had visited with his family many times as a boy. He had built this bridge barely two years before he showed me it and yet it looked as old as the hills.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
It only makes sense that wallers in Britain wall differently than we do here in Canada. They have been at it longer and it has developed and is developing differently than it is here. It would be unreasonable for them to suppose, or worse, insist on driving on the left whenever they came to Canada for a visit. There would be calamitous complications
Sunday, March 7, 2010
While we might wonder what the secret Masonic handshake actually is, we understand that it was developed as a way masons could recognize and show 'respect' for each other, without necessarily speaking. ( The 'nonspeaking' part didn't imply that they didn't like each other ! ) The handshakes were a way for those who worked in stone to express their solidarity with other masons. As part of these perhaps antiquated rituals, secret handshakes allowed masons to express fraternity and above all 'friendship'.
When a mason apprenticed with a skilled Freemason, that mason would teach him a secret handshake, reflective of the degree of learning the apprentice mason acquired. When the mason traveled for work and gave another foreman the secret handshake, that person would know that the apprentice had learned a certain degree of masonry skill (along with the appropriate handshake) from his instructor.
Presumably these masons saw it was important to acknowledge from whence and whom they acquired much of their knowledge. It was not right to pretend they arrived at their level of skill and method of construction without any other mason's help or learned what they did without being associated with any organization along the way. Unfortunately this may not be the case anymore. Competitiveness amongst masons is not necessarily a bad thing, however to refuse to give reference to those one has learned from or been helped by in ones acquiring of those skills, belies a basic fault which is likely to 'show up' in other ways later on, not only in their work but in their character too.
I tend to think that the stones in the wall will hold together to the degree that the person who builds it recognizes the responsibility he has in valuing and maintaining the freindships he has with those who have helped him along the way in his craft.
To that end it is only right to make sure the contriving of contentious and rivalrous factions amidst the community of wallers here in Canada is discouraged amidst those of us who seek to continue cooperating with one another to build not only 'walls without mortar ' but also without hostility.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Friday, March 5, 2010
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Since it is still a bit early in the year to do any significant dry stone walling, my hands took up miniature cross-country skiing today to get in some exercise before all the snow completely melts here in our part of southern Ontario. The weather was brisk, but the snow was too sticky and the trails were barely there. I decided to go home and Google whether conditions would be better tomorrow and found this bit of sobering information, which has caused me to put my skis away for the season.
Skier's thumb describes an injury of the soft tissue that connects the bones of your thumb together. In medical terms, this soft tissue is called a ligament. This injury was originally noted in 1955 as a chronic ligament problem seen in Scottish gamekeepers who damaged their thumbs by repeatedly twisting the necks of hares. The injury was termed the gamekeeper's thumb at that time. The popularity of recreational downhill skiing has caused this injury to become much more common in the United States and has caused the term gamekeeper's thumb to be replaced with the more contemporary term, skier's thumb.
Skier’s thumb now accounts for a significant number of skiing injuries. In severe cases, with complete tearing of the ligament, this injury must be surgically repaired. The ultimate stability of the ligament is important because of its contribution to the grasping function of the thumb. People with skier’s thumb may be able to return to work and even skiing in a short period with proper rehabilitation.
Note to self : Walling with my hands is probably safer than skiing with them.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
My hands went for a walk today down by Sylven Glen conservation area, where there is a lovely trail through the forest along the swollen banks of the muddy Ganaraska river. The snow is melting and there are patches of mud and ice everywhere. The path winds through a spacious grove of Cedars and there are rocks, dead leaves and sticks protruding through the snow. My fingers had to skip playfully from moss-covered rock to moss-covered rock. They just had to !