Thursday, March 4, 2010

Farewell to Arms

I have always maintained that building a dry stone wall doesn't have to be a trade-off between beauty and sturdiness, and that both can be accomplished using even a random assortment of stones. It is possible to erect something that is built like a tank, but is a tank really beautiful. A wall, unless it is built in a war zone, doesn't have to look like a tank-barrier either, just the same way a house surely doesn't have to look like a bunker.

Like good art and much of life, restraint is the key. War is about excess. A wall built without restraint is a wall that wastes too many of the better sized and squarer flatter shaped stones. Such a wall demands that more and more 'recruits' come in and lay down their lives for the 'wall cause', which doesn't so much 'raise the standard' as raise the cost .

"But" you say to yourself, "why spare any expense?"

I suppose such a walling effort will appear to be a kind of heroic 'war effort'. If you are not in love with what you are doing, then your wall can be excessively blocky and dull, and you can call for throughstones to be inserted every other foot and use fairly unchallenging stones everywhere. It is no longer about being ecological or being frugal with what you have or even being creative, but it's about militarily 'securing' your position and establishing your dominance over a section of wall, even if it requires using a lot of pre-cut stuff from the pallet and anything else you secretly know is pretty hard to come by .

Yours becomes a pragmatic wall, the antithesis of art. You can pretend it is the 'Wall to End All Walls'. You can assure yourself that you haven't skimped on anything in a slavish commitment to permanence. But there is an obvious point where the beauty and spontaneity are lost. A wall like that might win the battle for lasting the longest or the prize for looking like you couldn't push it over with a tank, but it won't necessarily be is a 'handsome' wall, and in the end, ironically, it wont be a wall you will want to remember..


  1. Sage advice for leading the dyker troops General Shaw-Rimmington! You are writing the waller's version of Sun Tsu's Art of War- The Art of Wall

  2. Lots of beautiful walls still stand the test of time, and maybe even show a few battle scars that have healed themselves along the way. They don't necessarily detract from the integrity or strength but many times
    add character that evokes memories of fighting for something worth protecting.