Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Hallowed Wiener

When you are building a dry stone wall you often need to find stones with certain specific shapes. It helps to have names for these shapes so that you can ask the wallers you are working with if they've got a 'triangle stone' or 'hook stone' for instance, for using in a certain difficult section of the wall. The obvious name/shapes that come to mind are ones like 'flat one', 'square cornered' (or what we call a 'ninety' ), throughstone , builder stone , and cope stone. There is an elongated shape stone we have had to give a special name to because we often end up looking for these as we are building, in order to fill in certain irregular slots in the wall. The main attribute of these kind of stones are that they have to have length, so that when inserted into the wall they aren't going to fall out, but they can be of any height or width. They can also be any size. Eighteen inch ones are as valuable as six inch ones. These 'hotdog' stones, as we call them, turn out to be pretty valuable. You save them as you're going over the pile of stones, because you can be pretty sure you are going to need quite a few of them in the wall before it is finished.

Today, on 'Thinking With My Hands' it seemed appropriate to honour the humble 'Hotdog Stone', or as it is more reverently called, - 'The Hallowed Wiener'

Saturday, October 30, 2010

My Garden Sheds Its Ugliness

This challenging little hands-on project we built on our property, one that we came back to work on every now and then between dry stone jobs, was actually completed just yesterday, and deserves showcasing here. The short slideshow video documents the various stages of this hare-brained idea of mine, from its inception to final execution.

This was an dream I have had for some time now, after having completed a dry stone sauna for some clients, teaching two 'blackhouse' workshops up in Holstein Ontario, doing another black house at our 2009 Roctoberfest, building a French dry stone cabanne in 2008, a stone boat house at another festival, a dry stone cladding of an ugly concrete icehouse, and of course the small 'sentry box' we built as a dry stone demonstration at the green fair in Port Hope, which is shown as the opening slide of this video.

Having built these things on other people's places and loving how yummy they looked, I really really wanted to have a dry stone hut on my own property, and more importantly I also wanted to get rid of the flimsy Canadian Tire shed that was handed down to us by some kind neighbours when we first moved to Port Hope, which though it was useful initially for storage, always seemed to spoil any photos we took over the years of the walls and gardens we had created around the house.

So killing two birds with a lot of stones, (actually no birds were killed in the making of this hut, maybe some slugs and worms and small trees), I decided to 'clad' the annoyingly ugly tin building in order to have our very own dry stone toolshed right on our own property. Everyone should have one.

Im seriously thinking about living in it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Balance is Everything

Who hasn't had their tires balanced? It's quite a trick, really. I cant imagine how you would do it with an 18 wheeler.

Anyway, I thought it would be nice to think about 'balance' today.

It is an amazing thing.

Balance is the activity of being.

It more often than not involves slowing down and waiting, rather than constant activity.

Balance requires that we learn how to 'be', and 'not to be' always rushing around.

It necessitates 'tuning into' something so subtle that, for the most part, it can't even be taught.

All areas of our life require balance. It is the reward of constant experimenting and the gentle positioning of weighty matters (and ourselves) so that gravity and all other pressures (good or bad) work on our side.

Balance is the equalizing of the pull of opposite poles, charges, pulls and pushes.

It is the 6th sense. We can not stand without it.

We know when we are off balance without any of the other 5 senses.

Balance is symmetry.

And balance is a dance, a reflection, a repeated phrase, a pleasingly proportioned design and space in time.

Balance is a comparison, a relationship, it is seeing the connection, the ratio, the give and take of a situation.

Life is a balancing act in a topsy turvy world.

Unlike balancing stones, (where rocks are precariously positioned utilizing the sparsest network of contact and the least means of support ) building permanent walls, by stacking stones structurally, is really an exercise in learning to maximize all the balance available to us in the material we have to work with.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rehashing the old dry stone wall concept.

Mechanized wall-building and landscaping is just around the corner, in fact it's coming down the street right now. Incorporating the wonder of modern science and technology, random truck loads of raw wall material are magically transformed into beautiful free-standing road-side 'stone fences'.

These stunning additions to any neighborhood are manufactured right on site using up leftover material from excessive quarrying and massive extracting operations. The whole concept is clean, efficient, green and ecologically friendly. The walls which are built, are straight and natural looking. They not only look like the real thing, they are the real thing, and they last for years and years! If they are broken or knocked over they can be repaired by an efficient wall rebuilding-machine which comes by and actually recycles the same wall material without any fuss. These new walls protect those loved ones who live on your property , soften the impact for speeding vehicles, while beautifying the neigbourhood.

Why put up with concrete barriers anymore? Why waste money on pressure treated fences and rotting railway ties? Why should you look at ugly metal chain link fences along the road? Make the modern choice - Move to stone.

But then again, dry stone wallers have simply been doing this sort of thing for thousands of years, haven't they?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Seeing a pattern.

There are those times, very rare times, when you see the pattern. The wet leaves on the ground merge into an almost recognizable repeating geometric design. The ripples in the sand for a brief second look like they have an order you might just be able to understand. The abstract forms of nature briefly loose their random appearance. The hidden pattern of the ripples and their reflections suddenly becomes apparent. You tune into a universe around you which you perceive as being momentarily much more ordered than usual. An unmistakable design 'appears' amidst the usual random complexity and strange asymmetry of nature's handiwork.

For me, looking at the herringbone wall of Scott George's can trigger that same kind of magical moment where I think 'there is a hidden logic to the design I'm seeing', a kind of secret pattern there, waiting to be discovered.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Scott George- A hands on guy.

Last weekend while in New York state giving a presentation and teaching a workshop in Brockport with Norman Haddow at Sara's Garden Centre, we stayed with George Scott at his historic cobblestone house in the country. George is an amazingly creative waller who builds many unusual structures on his own property just outside Brockport. Although he is employed as a firefighter in Rochester, he uses much of his spare time building very professional looking walls, as well as artistic pieces. His dry stone work reflects a competence that suggests that Scott may be turning to walling full-time very soon.

About six years ago George started to build one of his first walls laying the stones in a diagonal arrangement, which gradually turned into a sort of semi-herringbone pattern. Im not sure why I find this wall is so intriguing. Every time I visit this wall captures my imagination possibly because it is vaguely suggestive of curving patterns I've seen somewhere in nature. As Scott took us around his property and we saw some of his other stonework (some of it not yet completed) we sensed that Scott had possibly set out on an unending and delightfully entertaining journey, exploring different styles and even more fanciful designs with each new project.

Here is one of several experimental 'trees' that Scott has built over the years and dotted throughout parts of his enchanted walled garden. Scott is also a knowledgable gardener and horticulturalist as well as part time farmer. He has goats and chickens and raises hounds too. He is interested in all things philosophical and artistic, especially in the context of designing and building structures of dry stone.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Thinking maybe this guy should be more careful.

Okay, this has very little to do with rocks, and nothing to do with walling, and definitely nothing to do with 'thinking' with any part of your body.

And the final picture below is what they never show you...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Thinking with my feet.

I purposely kicked a metaphorical hornet's nest today. It was thrilling. I cringed at first but shortly after, a feeling of exuberance prevailed. When I told my wife what I'd done, and asked whether she thought it was a big mistake, she offered up the proverbial advice "Well, you either go big or go home."

"Sometimes you have to do both." I thought.

That being so, I'm still glad I did it. Hornets, after all are pretty feisty things. They get offended far too easily. They are ever so critical and really, what is the thing they are most noted for? - just an annoying nasty sting. They deserve being kicked occasionally. At least then, you can give yourself a head start to get the hell out of there.

I don't like being surprised by hornets or people with hornet-like tendencies. Why do we put up with people who have biting stinging things to say for no apparent reason, or just because they have some personal thorax to grind. They should get a life.

Sometimes when I've been building a wall and gone off looking for more material in the woods, I've turned over a stone on the ground or picked up a rock from a pile and accidently disturbed some sting-happy nest-a-vespas. It takes very little for these 'apocritas' to decide to mobilize and go on the offensive. It's always a surprise attack, and from my spot on the wall, way over-reactionary.

Hornets, (or maybe they're 'ground wasps' - whatever) have got to learn to fit into the pattern, get along with others in real world and share their space with wallers and campers and hikers and people who happen to like the outdoors.

Meanwhile we will refuse to go around being too afraid to stir our coffee or roll in the autumn leaves or go rooting amongst hedgerows looking for stones. And we are going to continue to build walls too, and enjoy doing it regardless of the nay sayers who have nothing better to do than be critical.

My friend John Scott described these kind of people very aptly " They're like the little yellow hornets that insists on flying around your beer on an otherwise perfect saturday afternoon..."

Hornets and wasps, along with poison ivy and Allan Blocks need to all be shipped off somewhere far far away, a place not unlike hell, along the perimeters of which they can at least serve a useful purpose - warning people to stay away.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Gourds 3 : Bridge 1

CKWS TV did a small segment of live coverage of our stone bridge being built last Thanksgiving. The clip is full of other stuff too. It isn't possible to post the a working link here.

Anyway, The headline for the clip reads...'Dry stone wall bridge. It's a trade you don't see that often'.

How about EVER ????

The Rocktoberfest bridge building project was a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime event that could have been documented SO much better than this!

This Thanksgiving, according to this television news clip, viewers needed to see more footage of gourds than footbridges.

Oh Well.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Handy reminder about Stone Story

It occurs to me that 'Stone Story', the spontaneously unfolding online story about 'talking' stones, which I've been writing on and off for several months and posting intermittently on Thinking With My Hands, has had a spotty presence on the blog and people need to be 'filled in' more about what is going on, especially for anyone who doesn't know about the story and might in fact be curious to read what's happened so far. I should say that for those who have read all the episodes, thank you for hanging in there, and that I will be revisiting it and adding more episodes in the near future.

I have recently arranged all chapters and Stone Story can now be read in its entirety on one blog page here below.

Stone Story

A round rock and a square rock went for what was not a very fast roll one fine year. The square rock was having trouble keeping up.
"You are rolling far too quickly for me my dear."
" Am I ? " she replied.
" Yes, " he said rather straight faced " I wonder if you could slow down the pace a bit ?"
" We will never get there if we don't get a roll on. "
" That's fine for you to say. It's not so easy for me to rock and roll the way I used to, you know. I would really prefer to stop for breaks now and then. "
" Who has time for breaks anymore? " she asked, as she spun around and faced him " If we rocks want to make it and get ahead in this day and age, we have to be movers and shakers. We have to make use of every eon that we are given. In any case, you know as well as I do that it's much harder to get going again after you've stopped."
" I know I know, it's just that one misses so much, tumbling along at this speed."
" Misses things like what, the ground?" she asked rockingly
" Not just that, there's the beautiful view over there, the grass, the trees, and the sky,- look at that sky ! "
" Oh you're such a square." she said tenderly and smiled at him, as if to say in her own round about way 'I still love you, you old block head' .
He, not seeing her face, just carried on.
" Why do we need to rush anyway? There's sure to be a place for us in the wall when we get there"
" Did you forget what happened nearly two millennia ago to your cousin rocky ?" she asked in a less nice 'stone of voice'.
" I do, I do, but it was his own fault." the square rock replied as he came round the corner. " He was dying to get into Hadrians wall, but they didn't want to use him because he looked like a trouble maker."
" He was too late, too. The wagon was already full of volunteers" she reminded him. " You can be in great shape, but if you don't show up on time you're gonna miss the stone boat."

Stone Story part 2

'The Squire' as she called him, ( the cube shaped rock ), stopped and faced Rhonda. (the round one) "It's too bad really," he said, gritting his teeth "cousin Rocky would have made a great problem-solver stone in the wall"

They had been talking about how Rocky had missed the 'boat' and had never been chosen to be fitted into any walls. The Squire was now wondering what their chances were of getting chosen.

Rhonda saw a shadow come over his flat face.

" Look at you. You're thinking they won't put you in the wall, are'nt you?" she said in her graveliest voice, as she tried to encouraged him. "Listen, you may be old, but you're as hard and strong as you ever were. And you've got a handsomely chiseled face. So don't go all flakey on me now and let's just get a move on." Then she added "If anyone should be worrying it is me. Look at me. My entire makeup is all patchy and uneven. "
" Yes but you have the nice curves, my dear. You have a lovely contour."
" That may be so, but I've heard they sometimes don't like to build with round stones. They think they're too difficult to work with."
" That's a load of rubble." the Squire said, consoling her now.

She moved over and leaned on him gently.
" Do you think they'll put us together? " she asked.
" I don't see why not, we make a great pair " he answered proudly, in his best phony Scottish accent.
" Seriously, sometimes they don't like to put round rocks with squarish ones. They break them up. I've heard the round ones are sent off to the hard laborers who's job it is to smash them up for the heartless wallers."
" Dont worry my dear, if anyone can get around that problem, it's you." the Squire said, sensing her sphere. "Where as me, I'm just as common as they come, square as a brick and about as lovable. When they put too many of us together we make a pretty bland wall. Sad really. Of course that kind of coursing is done all the time. It's completely structural, but oh I do like to see the round ones mixed in with the square ones" He sighed.

They continued slowly down the side of a long fell and after what seemed like eternity they were at the crest of a gentle hill overlooking the valley. Another week or two, with some good erosion, they might get to the bottom.
" Look " she said "We're almost there! "
Below them, they could just see a group of wallers fitting stones into a magnificently long dry stone wall that stretched far up the valley and off into the distance.
'That's so beautiful!' thought the Squire.
" Come on " she said "We haven't got forever.....

Stone Story part 3

They were perched, ready to roll further down the hill towards the group of wallers, when they heard a voice call out for them to 'weight'. They were surprised to discover that they had been followed by an odd shaped rock, neither square shaped nor spherical, but strangely triangular. He was as short of breath as he was in stature. They noticed that he wasn't 'dressed' well either. There were some chip marks and patches of unevenness where he had obviously had some rough breaks. His faces were worn and tired looking.

"I hope I didn't give you two a fright." he said, leaning towards them awkwardly.
"Not at all" They both replied politely.
"Ah good" he sighed and added "You see, when I saw you two roll by, I thought to myself, there go a couple of rocks who wouldn't mind being 'put upon' by a common rock such as myself."
"We too, are merely common rocks." answered the Squire, who was grateful for the opportunity to stop and talk. "We don't mind being put upon, do we Rhonda?"
"Not at all." she said.

"You know," the triangle-shaped stone went on, "We rocks have to stick together. There are plenty of enemies out there."
" Too true." They both replied. It was the only thing either of them could think to say, though Rhonda was starting to worry just how cracked the old stone actually was.
" I shudder to think about it sometimes. All those unpleasant lichen sapping our strength, the mangling mobs of moss smothering our faces, the infernal freeze thaw cycles that are so upsetting, the constant rubs and abrasions, and well... how does Slatespear put it ? Ah yes, - the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." he stopped and thought a moment.." I myself have been slung from a sling on more than one occasion and suffered great misfortune at the hands of some would-be David."
"Really," said the Squire in disbelief.
"We have mostly had good dealings with humans" said Rhonda."We kept one for years on our property in Ambleside. He wasn't a very good gardener so we never saw him that much. He stayed in his house and kept to himself mostly."
"I'll admit " added the Squire "they do move annoyingly fast and are pretty 'shallow' as a species, and they make a lot of noise - but you get used to it"
"Occasionally you find one or two with enough patience that you can teach them a thing or two about building a good stone wall" added Rhonda " but most of them don't get it."

Stone Story part 4

"Ah yes, there are some good wallers out there - ones who 'listen to stones', but I am afraid most have joined another rebel clan. We stones are living in a time of great danger where a whole generation of humans have forgotten about the 'bond' which has existed between us for thousands of years. I refer specifically to the plague of so called 'masons' - men who are nothing more than rock thieves and stone traders, who catch and imprison the likes of us, merely for the purpose of sticking them together to drape over their houses and decorate their walls with."

"I have only heard of such things, but never believed it to be true." the Squire said as he shifted his weight from one side to the other. " I have only been used in structural structurally with a comfortable lime mortar bedding to breath and move"

"This other 'modern masons' use a kind of cement is so hard it causes damage to the stones," said the triangular stone, "and they that have been besmeared are scared for life with this horrid 'cement of portent'. The poor stones locked in such a wall have no life at all. They are all bunched together in suspended aggregation.

"How wall full ! " Rhonda gasped

"Yes it is. For surely these things are not cement to be." The triangle stone said looking down at the ground, grimly shaking his apex.

After a long pause he went on " But there is a new wall I must tell you about, though I dare to call it such, something I watched being amassed to my amazement. It is constructed not of local stones or natural material, but of some kind of 'shamrock', a 'phony stone' which is held together with a concoction horrible and sticky. I think 'tis called 'landscape glue'. And yet neither it, nor the wall itself, holds the landscape together at all. It is an affront to the background and a distraction to the eyes. And yet, I am told, this 'impostor wall' is only one of many to soon reach our land. We rocks must try and stop this invasion."

He stared at them gravely. " It is for this reason that I have waylaid you, so that I might inquire your assistance."

"How can we help?" the cube-shaped stone asked.

"I am not sure exactly, but I believe there must be some way for us to undo this spectre of a wall and ensure that nothing like it is ever built in these parts again."

" And where is this 'pretend wall'?" Rhonda asked.

" Not far from here - about a stone's throw from Stonecroft Cottage. I am hoping you will both come with me there to see what can be done?"

" But we are bound for yonder valley to join with our brothers and sisters in the dry stone wall you see being built off in the distance there. We should not delay any longer than needs be."

" I know, I know, but this slight diversion will not 'hold you up' for long, certainly nowhere near as long as those other stones will, when, after this adventure, you all shall be joined in a beautiful wall and enjoying being 'held up' together for a long time."

She paused and then turned to consult the square stone who was staring down longingly towards the walling activity below and asked him " What do you think, Squire?"

" As much as it would be nice to be down there with our kin," the Squire sighed " I suppose we should consider the imploring of our new friend and inspect this 'wall' of which he speaks. "

Stone Story part 5

The three stones, having decided it would be good to see what could be done about a troublesome 'fake-stone' wall, which they were told had been built not far from Stonecroft Cottage, now had to figure out a way to get there.

For millions of years, before humans, there were only a few ways for rocks to get around. With the aid of gravity they were restricted to fairly random migrations along rivers, or over longer cross-country routes traveling 'in the company of other stones', by way of glaciers. Most often stone 'movement' consisted of sliding down sides of hills and mountains with the help of normal types of erosion. In short, their movement was fairly restricted, particularily in any upward direction. Now and then, if one was lying close to a fault-line which was about to 'heave', a rock could catch the 'updraft' on what would then become the side of a cliff, to find themselves happily higher than the adjoining geological plate. Other than these forms of propulsion, stones moved imperceptibly slow for millions of years.

It was when humans came along that things really started to change. Especially when some of the smarter rocks discovered ways to get them to do what they wanted. Over time, more and more rocks learned the basics of 'humanipulation' and were not only able to travel more efficiently, but also found ways to have them 'do their building', and so create the entire realm of impressive stone structures that we see today. Around the world, a devoted strata of stone and bedrock developed a non-verbal 'litho-language' and so through history imparted their creative influence on men. Their strategy was simple - to be lifted up and to be stacked in meaningful arrangements where they could be fully appreciated - basically so that, for a few thousand years at least, they could attain the stature and respect they deserved.

Did not one of their own poets write...

The dance of repose.
The recumbent pause of we the inanimate.
Except for a brief ion of activity.
(For such a great mass, only insignificant rumblings, really)
Mostly stillness.

Except for placement,
For slight rearrangements,
The occasional pyramid, or great wall, or stone fortification.
Enough time to be shaped into cathedrals and bridges and complex cites of stone.

But before and then, after...
Mostly waiting.

"I say we catch the next torrential downpour, slide down that other side of the hill, over to that footpath there, and then get someone to pick us up. " said the Squire.

Stone Story part 6

Conveniently, the storm was not long in coming. Rhonda was washed down the side of the hill, followed almost immediately by Myron (the pyramid shaped stone) and after quite a lot more heavy rain washing away parts of the hill, the Squire tumbled down in a slurry of mud to meet them.

They had to wait some time for the ground to dry up and longer until someone came along.

Their plan was simple – catch the attention of a hiker, then have that person 'think' they would like to try to balance the three stones, (not knowing the idea was planted there by the stones) and so get themselves carefully stacked, one on top of the other ,in prominent place, and then hopefully attract another passerby to stop and admire the 'balancing act' and decide to take them home . The balancing part, they thought, wouldn't be too difficult, as anyone with a shred of talent should be able to find the 'zone' fairly quickly, without too many collapses.

"It's always disappointing when they give up before they've even given it a decent try" the Squire thought to himself.

They heard someone coming up the path.

"Shhh, I'll do the communicating" said Rhonda.

A couple of hikers walked by without noticing the stones at all.


"Let me try next time " said the Squire.

"Perhaps we should work together" suggested Myron.

Shortly afterwards, a young man came over the ridge wearing crocks, shorts and a faded burgundy T-shirt with the Japanese symbol 'ishi' printed on the front. (The word for stone)

"Looks like we're in luck." Myron whispered.

They caught his attention and it wasn't long before he was placing the stones in different configurations on the ground. Eventually he thought to try balancing them one on another. After a couple of failures, he made a reasonable three stone tower, and then stood back admiring his work. Rhonda and the Squire thought he was staring far too long at what he had made, considering the skill level required to produce such a simple balancing act.

"Let's hope he doesn't knock us down before he goes" said the Squire
"No chance of that " said Rhonda. "He's too pleased with himself."

Sure enough the young man dusted off his shorts and wiped his hands and proceeded on his way leaving the stone tower for someone else to discover.

"We should be able to stay balanced this way for a while" Myron informed them "As long as the wind doesn't come up."

They all three concentrated on staying as still as they could.
The Squire had the most trouble not moving. He was trying his hardest not to scratch. It was no good. He gave in and shimmied on one corner to alleviate the itch. The three of them nearly toppled over.
The other two peered down at him disapprovingly.
"Stop Rocking" Rhonda snapped.

"Seriously? I ask you. " he creaked back "How can you ask a rock to not rock? It's like asking a fly not to fly. It's what we do, for goodness sake!

Stone Story part 7

The next morning things were pretty quiet. The rocks had run out of things to say to each other. Myron had rambled on mostly about his past as marker-stone along the Pennine Way. He had that job until being unceremoniously 'removed' (more accurately, stolen) and ended up in Oxford some years later, ironically he was transported back to Cumbria by an English professor, who liked to collect rocks, where they both went into retirement.

Rhonda retold the story of how she had a twin sister and that they had been separated early in life and had not seen each other since they had been split up, which she figured had to be at least 300 million years ago. She hoped one day to be reunited in a wall.

The Squire explained how he'd ended up with his unusual square shape, which in fact had happened when he was in prison. He had been knocked around a lot there and much of the way he thought and looked was for the most part shaped by his experience with the inmates who had been pretty rough on him. When they were finished with him he was too small to be a regulation- size cobblestone and so ended up being 'pitched'. He did the rest of his time (before he went to sea) in a makeshift courtyard outside the main livery stable at Shrewton-by-the Sea.

Later on he and about 2000 ballast stones managed to get themselves loaded in the hull of a merchant sailing ship and enjoyed years of traveling first class visiting many exotic parts of the Caribbean and the eastern coast of North America. His fondest memory was of traveling with some pretty important welsh stone material, slated to be used on the roof of a new church being built in New York city.

His sailing days came to an end when the clipper he was on ran aground off the coast of England. It was about a year later that he and Rhonda met on the beach after a big storm.

Just then Myron heard the noise of some humans coming down the path. There were three of them. The tallest wore a leather cap, a colourful checkered shirt and baggy canvas pants. He was the first to notice the balanced stones. He looked around for some other stones and challenged the other two men to do some balancing of their own.

This was not going the way the three stones had planned.

The men set about precariously stacking stones for about 20 minutes and then the taller man walked over to where the three stones were balanced, carrying a flat stone, and deftly placed it on top of the triangle stone, coaxing it until he found the balancing point.

"What ever made him do that? Rhonda exclaimed.
"Sometimes they just get it in their minds to stack stones without getting any prompting from us at all." Myron reported.

The men continued laughing and joking for a while, threw some stones at the piles they had made (knocking down all but the original one with the new flat stone on top) and then not long afterwards, headed off down the path.

The four stones remained balanced in their new taller configuration for quite some time. No one said a word. Then Michael, the flat stone, broke the silence
"My name is Michael," he said flatly "I don't believe we've met." he added in a completely mono-stone voice.

Before any of them could answer he went on.
"I think this is the most exciting thing that's happened to me in about fifty years."

Stone Story part 8

So Michael," Rhonda asked. "I'm guessing you were 'speaking' to that human, and you were the one who gave him the notion to put you over here onto our stack?"
"Good guess. I hope none of you are too upset.?"
"Do we look upset?" the Squire asked. "We're not even jostled!"
"We're still standing, are we not?" announced Myron.
"Thanks. It's just that up until very recently my power of suggestion has not been working very well. I dont know why. Maybe I'm getting old."
"How long have you been here?"
"Must be well over a century now, and I've never been able to get anyone to move me"
"Nobody has ever picked you up in all that time, or used you with some other stones, say, around a campfire?"
"Nope, no one has even tossed me into the air."
"Poor you." said the Squire "I'd have thought that somebody would have considered you
interesting enough to have taken you home by now."
"I think its because I'm not quartzy enough. Why do they like sparkly stripy stones, and the pinkish ones so much?"
"They like 'decorative' stones," answered Myron. " People are not looking for structure, durability consistency or hardness any more"

"Well what are we going to do now?" asked Rhonda looking up at Myron for direction.

The four stones tossed some ideas around and decided that, as always, it was probably best to wait. They had several other chances that day to get a passerby to notice them and pick them up, but the opportunities slipped away, partly due to Michael's regained influence in the 'humanipulating' department. He was scheming to find ways to get placed on higher balanced stacks of stones, impromptu structures which he kept trying to influence each new passerby to want to build from the many other stones that were laying around. This effort was jamming the message the other three were sending out. They eventually convinced Michael that it would be best if they could all try to work together.

"What do you suppose all these other rocks are doing here anyway?" asked Rhonda.

There was indeed a lot of random piles of rocks dotted around the area.

"It looks like they were all gathered here by someone for a reason" said Myron. He cleared his throat and spoke to the crowd of rocks "Excuse me, I wonder if you could tell us what it is that you are up to?"

"We've all booked a holiday in Eskdale" the boulder of the rocks replied.

"How on earth do you plan to get there?" asked the Squire.

"By air. In the sky! We all got together and arranged a flight. You'll see."

Sure enough it wasnt long after when the saw several trail workers combing the hillside gathering up all the uasable rocks they could find and stuffing them into large sturdy-looking vinyl cargo bags as they approached. They were stockpiling material and getting it ready to be air lifted to be used to repair a retaining wall along the hiking trail on Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England.

"Can we come along?" asked Michael. He looked sheepishly at the other three."I've never flown before. I think it would be great fun, dont you?"

"It's not going to get us to Stonecroft" objected Myron.

But it was too late. Two humans drew near carrying a big white bag.

"Look at this Gavin" said the first 'trail builder', pointing to the tower of four balanced stones. "Should we leave them here?"

"Toss 'em in the bag, mate. They're speakin' to me." he said, jokingly.

After that, everything happened so fast. The next thing they knew they, and about 50 other rocks who had all been bunched together in the cargo sack, were being air-lifted by a huge roaring army helicopter up over the Cumbrian countryside.

"Wahoooo!" Michael shouted, as he peered over the side of the bag.

" Careful, you're going to fall out ! " blurted the Squire.

Stone Story part 9

The flight was exhilarating. They watched in amazement as the scenery spread out below them in every direction. The miles and miles of 'gift wrapping' which covered the Cumbrian landscape in long flowing ribbons of dry stone walls was a sight to stir the heart of even the most hardened of rocks. It was a 'treat' which none of them were quite prepared for. The scale and beauty of all these walls surely matched stone structures found anywhere around the world, in any previous civilization. Below them, and spreading further over Britain's narrow island, was an architectural network of stonework that rivaled the pyramids in scope .

The rocks were dangling high over the picturesque fells of England's Lake District now.

The Squire thought to himself that it wasn't that long ago that stones first started to fly. In his relatively 'short' lifetime he had seen an amazing amount of progress. The ways rocks got around was constantly evolving. When he was young (back in the early neolithic period) and on into the middle ages it was mostly logs and crude barrows, wooden rollers, stone boats and simple wagons. Modern times saw the coming of huge trucks, freighters, trains, and now even helicopters which could be utilized to transport rocks anywhere in the world they wanted to go.

It was a pity that the craft itself had not progressed to the same degree, he thought. Skilled stone masonry by contrast was on the decline. Humans no longer had the same affinity with stones they had in earlier ages. The know-how had been lost too. The traditional technologies associated with creating good stonework was something most people had little understanding of. Natural stone was seen as something foreign or just plain antiquated. Humans no longer considered stone structures to be as majestic, transcendent, inspiring or even as interesting as modern contraptions like cars and planes and computers. Except for modular veneered applications, the modern world was pretty much drifting away from stone altogether. Machines and power tools and assembly line computerized fabricating factories reduced the shaping process into a dusty inhuman 'nega-lithic' activity.

Meanwhile, Rhonda was attempting to talk over the deafening noise of the helicopter with a couple of the other younger rocks in the bag.
"Is this your first flight?" She shouted.
It was no good.They might as well been stone deaf.

One younger 'rockette' ( the proper word for a 'female rock') did manage to communicate, more by way of sign language to Rhonda, that she hoped one day to travel to the moon.

"They are more advanced in their skills of rock-persuasion on the moon than we are." She gestured.

She went on to explain that 'moon rocks' have more sophisticated powers over humans than stones here on earth do, as evidenced by the fact that astronauts had been influenced to take them back to earth, while here, apart from an occasional helicopter flight, stones have not made much progress in the 'space' department . The young rockette hoped to see a day when a true conglomerate of international space travel would be formed that focused its efforts on sending rocks (not just humans) to the moon and Mars and beyond.

Stone Story part 10

The bag of rocks touched down at 13 hundred hours, close to 2000 feet up the north side of Scafell Pike. The helicopter disconnected from the cargo bag and flew off.

The silence was heavenly.

Rocks, as a rule, hate noise of any sort. The deafening roar of a helicopter had been hard to endure. Machinery in general, but particularly stone saws and grinders, drive rocks to the brink. In fact, rocks are generally suspicious of humans holding any kind of tool. They can move surprisingly quickly in these situations, resorting to biting and pinching if necessary to get away. Stones don't mind being shaped by a human who has learned their craft, but unskilled indiscriminate whacking is definitely irritating. A hammer in the hand of someone who doesn't know what they're doing makes rocks 'tense up' . They may end up having to get physical. In some cases when they are driven to the 'breaking point', they will spray their assailant with debris.

Modern pneumatic chisels and whirring power tools make an awful racket, enough to scare most of the older precambrian rocks. The younger ones, to some extent, have learned to adapt. Generally rocks will cooperate with anyone who approaches them slowly and demonstrates a genuine teachability. Rather than trying to prove something, a human who is open to learning something, and willing to take the time to try to tune into their 'world', may eventually find it to be an enlightening and highly constructive encounter. However 'picking up' even what a small rock is 'saying' is proportionally much harder to do, requiring far more skill than it would to actually 'pick up' a rock a hundred times its size.

It has always been important to rocks that their 'time frame' be respected. They have millions of years of experience and wisdom on their side. It is indeed a wonder that they should be willing to pass any of this on at all to such transitory beings as humans, who for the most part have not evolved enough to even consider that a higher more intelligent mineral form of 'life' may exist.

There were no traces of any transitory beings high up on Scafell Pike today. It was desolate and intensely beautiful. This remote outcropping of Cumbrian geology, with the accompanying expanse of grey expressionless sky dissolving off into the distance, looked much the way it had for tens of thousands of years. In fact there was little to indicate the rocks were in the 21st century at all. Apart from a worn footpath leading down the mountain, nothing had changed. Nothing needed to change. All the rocks sighed and took a deep breath. The Squire, Rhonda, Myron and Michael lay spread out amongst the other rocks gazing upwards and began contemplating the events that had led up to their being deposited high up in this their new rocky outpost.

"It's just like the good old days" noted the Squire in a pleased tone of voice "You could almost imagine we were back in a time when humans didn't exist"

Stone Story part 11 (part review)

Our four stone friends probably would have summarized the events of the past few days in this way....

The Squire (a squarish stone) and Rhonda ( a roundish one) while making their way down the side of a hill (slowly) to join other stones being assembled by humans in a dry stone wall being built in the valley below were waylaid by Myron ( an unusual pyramid-shaped stone) who persuaded them to divert their trip temporally and follow him to see a wall not made of stones and not held together without glue or mortar, which he was worried was built in a way that would soon be replacing the proper dry stone wall method, which had always been the traditional way of building walls in that area.

They began their journey in that direction, and then after being assembled by a stranger who had stopped to balance them, tried to attract another passerby to notice them in that configuration and be impressed enough to carry them off, hopefully in the direction they needed to go, only to be thwarted in their endeavors. Instead, they were apprehended by two trail workers, bundled into a cargo bag with some other rocks and flown by helicopter to the north side of Scafell Pike and dropped there. Along the way they had picked up Michael ( a flattish rock) who had only recently regained his influence over humans to be 'picked up', after having been unable to do so for many years.

Now the Squire peered over the fells and the hills towards the east.

Though rocks don't attach a lot of weight to issues of ancestry and breeding the Squire was quite familiar with lower parts of this country, through the connection of his being 'descended' from bedrock in the vicinity. Although he wasn't of the specific family of volcanic rocks that originally inhabited Scafell Pike, his beginnings were associated with the nearby granite deposits formed millions of years ago, at this their geological origin - 'orb earth', not far from Scafell Pike. He was somewhat amused to find himself back on his 'turf' so to speak, but other than it being a coincidence, he connected no earthly importance to it.

In fact, rocks find it quite puzzling how much emphasis humans place on knowing where they come from. 'They' being both humans themselves and also rocks. Apparently not just their own species (and all the other varieties of things) but even rocks come under their inane scrutiny.

"It is crazy" thought the Squire, " that they try to make sense of something so scrambled and ultimately unimportant; endlessly hypothesizing and speculating about geology, trying to determine the 'lineage of rocks', rather than making the more important connection, that of the 'alignment of rocks', which is simply determining their best configuration in the present"

"Is there any point to trying to decipher every swirl in a 'marble cake' ?" he wondered. "It's just like them to miss the point entirely. All the scientific knowledge contained in books and charts that they've ever come up with, showing the supposed 'past' ages and periods of geological development, with every far-fetched configuration of plate tectonics imaginable, amounts to very little" he thought, "compared to the wisdom contained within a single rock, existing in all its potential, right here and now."

Stone Story part 12

Rocks are good at waiting. They have got it pretty much covered. It is a function of their makeup, their composition. Nothing needs to happen for them, or to them, for great lengths of time. They can out-wait huge oak trees and giant redwoods. They can out last storms and floods and upheavals. They can put up with both the wear and tear of continuous activity, and the gnawing boredom of inactivity.

The Squire and his three friends were waiting. Not waiting for something to happen - just waiting. Apart from being heavy and having hardness and 'rocking' (as the Squire had reminded Rhonda) - 'waiting' was what rocks do!

So they waited.

Long before time can remember, rocks as we know them today, had no recognizable form at all. Somehow something happened, which even they cant explain, and they collectively made a quantum leap from a primeval state of non-being onto the stage of physicality and cosmic consciousness.

Before that, they were all just one big timeless swirl of gasses and molten minerals. They were the true mineral spirits. This was about 4.6 billion years ago, before the earths surface started to solidify. It was a big happening back then. It involved many things that can't be understood without metaphors and metaphysical ambiguities.

The time 'before time' was a very creative time. Everything was a solution. There were no problems, only a huge gassy liquid-mix of 'remedy'. As this solution 'cooled', the ingredients of raw potential solidified into what we understand to be the essential pre-historic building blocks of matter: which includes all the rock material on earth and throughout the universe.

The basic ingredients back then were silicon and oxygen and a smattering of other trace elements which had begun to consolidate into infinite configurations of something they had never been before. They turned from a kind of big swirling etherial 'problem solvent' into a more solid manifestation of spacial 'problem solvers'. The 'solution' had been mixed well and given time to 'set' properly, and the result was a massive deposit of multi-dimensional multipurpose matter which stratified into great chunks of raw creativity. The magma of all pre-history had actually congealed simply into - rocks. And so, in a way, rocks became visible tactile time-and-space evidence of all that had happened before time.

It was all so magnificent. It was all so magnanimous. It involved great extravagance and unanimity amongst all the united aggregations and throughout every geological state.

It also involved great restraint.

Any artist knows that you can't be 'creative' without limitations and constraints.
Creativity abhors a vacuum. It needs to have parameters to bounce off and complications to work with and try to reconfigure. These immutable preconditions are the catalyst which triggers new associations, and gives birth to new ideas.

Creative solutions almost always come out of necessity and restraint. And so it was that the 'essence of all creativity' formed itself into one massive mother-load of rock here on earth - a great hardened crystalized tumbled fractured mineralized conglomeration of 'constraint'.
After all, what other entity exercises more constraint than a rock? It is of necessity locked in time, locked in space, inert , silent , unyielding, hard, motionless and showing no emotion and seemingly without life.

Stone Story part 13

While the Squire and the three other stones were waiting on the mountain they had plenty of time to consider their options. They had plenty of company too.

The mountain side where they had been dropped off was not the desolate place they had first imagined. It was crowded with humans making their pilgrimage up and down the highest mountain in England. It was also crowded with a lot of other rocks

It didnt look like any of them, people or rocks, would be leaving soon. The four stones agreed it would be a good idea to find some way to get settled in for a while at least. They were not looking to be part of any permanent footpath, section of retaining wall, or even a small marker cairn. There was not really any likelyhood of that happening, anyway. There were way too many other rocks lying around everywhere already- too many really for the great number of human hikers stumbling up to the top.

Myron remarked that even though humans seemed attracted to scenic places with lots of rocks, they mostly spent their time looking to avoid them.

"Why would they have helicotered us onto Scafell Pike?" thought Myron. "Its like bringing 'coal to Newcastle'."

It was the geological equivillent of commercial free rock radio station. It was 'All Rock, All the Time'. A sea of rocks of every size and shape covered every approach to the peak.

Even at the very summit of Scafell Pike there were stacks and stacks of rock material. A makeshift dry stacked viewing platform which rose out of this great teeming pile of rocks, provided a place for climbers to stand and take pictures of the 360 degree vista of rocky terrain that lay below them.

Stone Story part 14

Without any warning the sky darkened and great thunder-burst of rain started cascading down on the rocky slopes. Large volumes of surging water churned down the footpaths and crags, down towards the base of Lingmore and into the Wasdale Head. It turned into a torrential downpour. Some of the looser areas on the scree slopes began sliding down the mountainside gathering momentum and dragging more material with it. In many places stampeding herds of rocks scrambled downwards as the deluge of water continued unabated, scouring away anything that didn't have a secure footing.

"Here we go again." the round stone called out as she and other rocks with her were swooped away in a broth of runoff and rubble.

The landslide carried them far down the mountain.

Myron, the pyramid shaped stone, got split up from the others.
Poor Michael was split up from himself.
The Squire and Rhonda found themselves near the top of a pile of rocks and debris which had slid down and 'taken out' a whole section of farm wall.
Michael who had suffered a serious fracture lay in two pieces beside them.

"Where are we" ? he moaned, speaking in the first person plural.
"Oh dear Michael, Im afraid you are two."
"Too... what?"
"Uh, too... many,"
"More than one." offered the Squire, more positively.
"Ah yes, you mean a multiple?" said the two Michaels.
"Congratulations " said the squire, still trying to make the best of the situation, "You've become twins."

Generally when rocks become divided (naturally or through human intervention) the larger of the two keeps his or her identity. The smaller half takes on a new identity and a new name shortly after separation. The name which is decided upon conjointly is usually some conglomerate of the geological family name combined with the action that split them up. For reasons which would take too much time to explain, Michael's smaller half became Hannah.

Michael and Hannah stared at one another, studying each other's shiny new surface, marveling at their own mineral image.
Often at these times, one or the other is almost bound to say.." I'm seeing a side of you I've never seen before."

Stone Story part 15

It was a long time after the storm before anyone came along to inspect the damage to the wall. It was even longer before they came back to begin to repair it.

The original wall, like all the others in the valley had been built some hundred and fifty years ago by local farmers using the same glacial till that had for thousands of years been deposited at base of the fell. The rocks that the landslide brought along looked like the ones in the wall except that they were scoured and less mossy. There were many more fresh breaks and split stones too. Michael and Hannah noted that they were not the only twos.

All the walls in this area of Cumbria were built not just as borders for fields to contain livestock but also just to use up the tremendous volume of rock material. Many of them were built extra wide to accommodate the thousands of tons of unwanted stones laying in the fields. Now that the deluge was over there were parts of the some fields where there were a lot more rocks to deal with again.

The men began their work without speaking.

Most of the stones had to be moved out of the way. It took the better part of the day to do this.
The builder stones were sorted and while they did this smaller stones and the hearting material was organized. The majority of rocks were roundish and not much bigger than the size of a football. This is not great material for building textbook walls. The style of farm walls in this region didn't even really have copes. The smaller stones were generally just laid on the top.

As the rebuilding the wall began Rhonda and the Squire were impressed to see that there was no chipping or hammering going on. The only noise they could hear was the clunking sound of rock on rock.
"I like them" The squire said. "They know what they're doing."

Stone Story part 16

The Squire and Rhonda were pleased to be able to have someone pick them up and place them over by a small group of 'builders' waiting their turn to work in the wall. Michael and Hannah, the newly 'twinned' stones had not been as lucky, having been tossed into a pile of brokenhearted material.

The square stone leaned over on his flattest side and spoke to the builder next to him.

"He's not doing a bad job, really." The Squire gestured towards the human who was concentrating very hard on the task of fitting each stone according to its peculiar shape, as he attempted to rebuild his section of wall properly. "Do you think he has done this before?"

"I've made a concerted effort to 'tune into' his thought pattern and communicate where I want to be put." said the builder-stone ignoring the question.

"How's that going?"

"He is thinking too hard. He needs to relax and let it come naturally"

"Ah, yes 'the perfectionist'. They are always struggling to find the perfect stone " said an oval stone who had overheard their conversation. " If only they could accept the fact that none of us are perfect."

"There are only good choices and then a whole lot morebad choices" said the builder, continuing the thought.

The oval-shaped rock lying near them nudged the other two and said " Watch this."

A moment later the human bent over and picked the rock up and placed him in the dry stone wall.

"Wow, that was a good fit" said the Squire studying the clever arrangement of stones the human made by fitting the oval stone in an awkward corner-shaped opening.

"Round peg in square hole move. Classic counterintuitive solution." said the builder. "They don't often catch on to that principle, Their understanding for three-dimensional relationships usually gets drilled out of them by the time they've finished their education. All that emphasis on geometric formulas and theoretical trigonometry can ruin them from ever becoming a good waller"

"Yes, schools don't seem to be that concerned after Kindergarten about students with 'spacial needs', do they?" added the Squire

"This chap is quite good though." the builder went on having changed his original opinion of the waller's skill level, " Look at the way those four beckstones are lining up." The builder was referring to a course of river rock which the waller had formed to make an area level to accommodate some larger angular volcanic rocks.

"He's catching on to coursing quite well" offered Rhonda

"Coursing is always so pleasing to look at" interjected another young rock who was waiting his turn to be chosen

"Especially if they are random round stones, not just squares" added Rhonda, hoping her opportunity would come soon.

"I think I'm next" the builder said.

"Good luck" said the Squire "We'll try and join you when we can."

Stone Story part 17

The dry stone waller paused to study the random pile of building stones beside him. His hand reached over to grab the builder who had been conversing with the Squire. As he started to loosen the stone, it dislodged another, causing the tip of his middle finger to get pinched between the two. He immediately let go and let out a strange 'un-stonelike' noise that humans sometimes make when they are hurt.
"What did you do that for?" asked the builder "You deliberately provoked him."
"He was moving too fast. He worried me. I just wanted to get him to slow down a bit." said the rock who had been the offender.
"Couldn't you see he was in the 'zone'? You let them go fast when they are in the zone. You should know that."
"Don't be too hard on him. " said Rhonda "He's just a young rock. He was probably more freightened than anything else."
"No I wasnt ! "
"Now now. Let's not argue. It was an easy mistake to make. Everyone understands." piped in the Squire. "Sometimes they do go a bit fast. They think they're in the zone and forget to stand back. It was probablly good for him to take a break and look at the whole wall, not just the little part he was working on."
"I still say that he shouldnt have bit the human" returned the builder "If you stop them when they're in the zone, they sometimes never get back for the rest of the day."
"What's he doing now?" asked the Squire.
"He's talking to the other waller" said Rhonda. "Something about listening to the stones speak to him."
"You think he can hear us?"asked the young rock.

Stone Story part 18

"No no, that's just an expression they use," said the Squire."They don't actually hear us. They pretty much have no inkling of what's going on in our world. Their world of only 5 senses is pretty limited. The universe is still a big mystery to them. Even with all their technology they're barely able to detect anything beyond the electromagnetic spectrum. And as for understanding the way we elements interact, I dont think they will ever be able to understand basic 'Entangled Particle Communication' "

"Shhh" said Rhonda.

The human approached. His finger was bandaged now and he had put on a pair of gloves to protect his hands from any further injury. He said something to his co-worker and then pointed at the builder-stone next to the Squire, the square stone.

"I don't believe it?" said Rhonda.

"What?" said the Squire impatiently. Though his mineral composition put him just above a seven on the Mohs scale of hardness, he was nevertheless quite 'hard' of hearing.

"He says that when he was walling just then, and really trying to let the stones speak to him, that he clearly heard a rock say that it thought it was going to be next in the wall." she said, turning to the builder stone."That was you."

"That's impossible" said the builder.

"Amazing" announced the Squire.

"See I told you they could hear us." The young rock shouted.

"No you didn't. You merely wondered if they could." said the builder." There's a difference."

"Never mind you two" said Rhonda " Let's see if we can get him to hear what we are saying again now."

It is true that while fairly experienced rocks had over thousands of years found ways to influence humans to have them do their bidding and building for them, humans never actually heard any audible rock-words. Communication was mostly in the form of constructive suggestions to their subconsciousness.
If the waller had overheard a conversation between stones, this was something extremely unusual, in fact, unheard of.
They tried talking to one another again, louder than normal this time, in a slightly forced tone of voice.

"Do•you•think•he•can•still•hear•us•now?" the Squire in a jerky voice. It sounded strangely rigid and quite stiff even for a stone.

"If he does you would think he would try and let us know it." Rhonda replied in mono syllables.

"Hey you, human! Knock three times if you can hear us"

The others cringed when they heard this outburst, and all three of them turned and glared at the younger rock.

The waller did put his head closer to one of the rocks, as if he was trying to hear better.
But he didn't knock.
After about a minute he resumed working.

The rocks continued talking and watched and listened, waiting for any indication that the waller had indeed been able to hear them speaking, but in the end decided it must must have been a coincidence.

Stone Story part 19

For the rest of the day the Squire and Rhonda (the round stone) discussed the likelihood of a human ever being able to 'pick up' rocks having conversations with other rocks.

"I say it's possible." said Rhonda " A really good waller, say one who has had years and years of experience understanding our ways, and has built miles of walls, and unconsciously knows how we need to be fit together, could conceivably get good enough to actually begin to hear what it is we are saying."

"I think you're right Rhonda - not just having a capacity to know what we want, but hear us speaking to one another. What an exciting thought. " Said the Squire. "And this chap is very good. I'd say he's one of the best I've seen in a while."

"I thought he was a perfectionist at first " said the builder, " but he is a craftsman. "

"He has flare." Rhonda added.

Flare is a wonderful gift to have as a waller. It is that unique talent that sometimes comes with experience that enables one to choose a random rock, hold it it for a split second, flip it and place it securely in a wall the first time, and know that it is right. It's a confidence, a bravado that turns walling into a dance, an aesthetic event, a flowing display of kinetic art. Flare is what makes one bold enough to leave a stone placed in the wall, even though it doesn't look right and won't until the other spaces have been filled in. It is being willing to risk not doing the obvious, not insisting on uniformity, if it sacrifices structural innovation or aesthetic creativity. It's having seen the big picture, letting the stones have their way and not try to control them. Without flare a wall is dead. It may be sturdy and look correct, even to a formally trained eye, but the stones have not been allowed to sing, to breath and be free. Those with flare see beyond the inherent attractiveness of the stone material to uncover it's deeper function.

Stone is the rawest most compacted form of creativity. From this material flow all other manifestations of artistic and structural expression. It's effect on civilization can be traced back to the earliest collaborations between man and stone. Since their beginnings on this rocky planet men have been, and still continue to be, influenced by this strange enduring substance.

A waller may never experience their latent capability for flare. He might only choose each stone based on how he can fix it, shape it, and employ it disregarding or discarding the likleyhood of it having any higher creative potential. The universe not only allows for extravagance and frugality it allows itself to be wasted. A waller with flare sees a universe of possibilities in what has been provided. Even though he knows he doesn't have to try to use the limited choices lying around, that are immediately available to him, he still believes he can do magic with it.

Stone Story part 20

The two wallers finished for the day. They made their way back down the valley towards home.

Though a significant section of wall had been rebuilt that day neither Rhonda nor the Squire had been put into the wall yet. This was partly due to their having become distracted with all the talk about the possibility of the waller being able to hear them, and partly due to their unusual shapes. The other two builders, who had been lying next to them (that is, the younger rock, and the builder-stone whom the waller had supposedly 'overheard' ) had been fitted beautifully into the dry stone wall. The first gap in the wall caused by the landslide was complete and the new repair merged cleverly with the older undamaged section of the wall. The slight change in colour, due to different less-weathered faces of the stones being exposed, gave the only indication that it was a newly repaired section of wall.

The next morning only the one waller returned. He began work by moving many of the stones he had not used along the wall to a toppled section he had not started on yet. Rhonda was impressed to see that the stones were not tossed. He carried most of them and put them down carefully. He placed Rhonda and the Squire out on the ground separately.

"He's not wearing gloves this morning" she said "His finger must be better."

"I think we should concentrate on being placed in this wall today." the Squire said. "I like this chap and he's doing some superb gapping."

"Yes I suppose you're right. That other wall we were going to inspect seems so far away now and who knows what's happened to the pyramid-shaped stone who was going to show us how to get there."

"I think he may have got buried over there" answered the Squire.

The waller looked in the same direction. He walked over and stepped carefully up onto the mound of nearby rocks,( most of which had slid down the mountain the day before and had not yet been sorted) and began searching through the pile.
A few moments later he retrieved the very stone they were talking about from the pile.

"Myron" shouted the Squire . "We're over here."

The waller carried the pyramid-shaped stone over to the other two and stared at the three of them.

They greeted one another enthusiastically. " Look at you, Myron you're all muddy."

The waller brushed off the mud from Myron.

They stared at one another in disbelief.
"Goodness" said Myron, " It's as though he actually heard you. I didn't give him the notion to pick me up and carry me over to here, did you?"

"No" said Rhonda and added. "This is very strange.

Stone Story. Segment Two. Part 1

It rained hard all weekend. The Squire and the other stones were soaked - well, as soaked as a granite rock can get sitting in the rain. Rocks that have long been buried under the ground and have only recently been exposed to the air, do have what is called "quarry sap" in them. They are, to some extent , 'damper'. Even then, their moisture level is almost negligible, but a rock fresh out of the ground is far more workable than one that has been sitting on the surface for a long time presumably because of its moisture content. Builders have learned this and good masons try to make sure they use the stone shortly after it has been quarried. Even rocks that have been soaked under water for a long time, after having been sitting around many years on the ground, are still more brittle and harder to shape than newly exposed rocks. Fresh rocks with quarry sap are like new born babies: they are pliable and soft and full of life.

Granite rocks that are left out in the rain may not get any easier to work with, but they do regain some of their luster and original attractiveness. They have a happier disposition; you can see it on their faces. They shine and have a lively beauty about them which humans have often noticed and admired. It's the sort of look humans try to capture in photographs or try replicate by sanding and buffing stones, or applying different plastic liquid finishes. Regardless of all the hard work, it never looks as attractive as a naturally shiny wet stone.

The typical water absorption of granite rocks is .03 percent, not a lot of water for their mass. Their resistance to taking on moisture, their low porosity, is part of the reason they weather so well. Water doesn't get very far past the surface, and therefore can't do the kind of freeze/thaw damage that it can do to more porous materials like brick and wood.

Rhonda watched the rain coming down and remembered the days of her youth. For many, many years, soon after being separated from her twin back in the Mesozoic Era, she had travelled with a group of friends with the glaciers through what would later become Scotland and had discovered a rugged affection for the desolate geology of the area as she passed through. The constant damp cold, the lovely bleakness of everything back then, was something she missed. She had tons of happy memories of her journey southward as she made her long striations along the craggy Pre-Caledonian landscape; it was all so moving. Her years in that magic place had carved her and shaped her. By the time she arrived in Cumbria, having left her home in the north country for good, she had become a well-rounded and beautiful stone. All her rough edges had been taken off. She never forgot her rustic beginnings, back in the days when she was not anywhere near as polished or in as good a shape.

Stone Story. Segment Two. Part 2

Unlike Rhonda, the circumstances that shaped Myron were things he wanted to forget. He had spent many millennia milling around, just below the earth's surface barely existing as a large sandstone deposit known as ' millstone grit ', back in the Namurian age. It was a very dull geological period of his life.

Myron told Rhonda,

"The Pennines just seemed cold and dark back then. Dark seams of coal below, piles of earth above, and nothing but formless sandstone in every direction.

"I had no identity back then, just part of a huge faceless mass of bedrock. I wasn't near enough to the surface to be where the interesting things were happening. And too, I wasn't going out with anyone back in those Carboniferous days, about 350 million years ago", but then Myron wondered if he was dating himself.

Many million years later, (probably during the time Rhonda was managing to scrape her way across Scotland) a lot of the sandstone bedrock around Myron was exposed. A long time after that, somewhere back in the early 1800's he, along with a lot of other grit material, had an opportunity to get quarried and shaped by humans into massive sandstone 'wheels' to be used as millstones.

"Extracting a whole millstone from a rock outcropping was basically a 'hit or miss' procedure. You either got the drill or you didn't. Back then only the stones that showed real grit made it in one piece through the extraction process."

Myron went on to explain that stone used for making a millstone could not have any lines of weakness which could cause it to crack as it was being removed from the bedrock. In order to quarry millstones from a deposit of millstone grit, a narrow circular groove was first made outlining the shape of the millstone to be taken from the rock. Deeper cuts were chiseled into the circle and these were pegged with wedges made of oak. Water was then poured on the wedges causing them to swell and so eventually the wedges split the stone, facilitating its extraction as a single piece from the surrounding rock. The middle hole was usually cut on site. This method of quarrying millstone left large perfectly round hollows in the rock surface, or sometimes just a shallow circular groove in the bedrock, if the stone cracked the wrong way before it was freed. Stones frequently cracked during the arduous quarrying process or later when they were bored. Myron had ended up in his original 'pie shape' (later to become more pyramid-like) when he broke off from one of these flawed millstones.

Stone Story. Segment Two. Part 3

The square stone's story was quite different from the other two. Many of the details you may remember, if you've been reading along. (see Stone Story part 7)

Myron had merely asked the Squire how he and Rhonda (the round stone ) had met, but that was all the excuse the Squire needed to launch off on an epic tale about their past, which I am only able to remember parts of.

Many many years back, Rhonda left the glacier and eventually ended up living on the west coast of what was not yet England, not far from what was to become town of St Bees. She spent all her days on the beach sunning herself, listening to rock and roll ( the sounds of tumbling stones and smaller pebbles being rocked back and forth by the ocean waves) and enjoying the constant changing of the seasons. Years passed and much of the surrounding coastline eroded away - in one area exposing the high red sandstone cliffs now known as St Bees Head. Rhonda had been fortunate enough to keep her place on the coast though many other rocks living closer to the ocean had come and gone.

"Finally, some time after that, humans came on to the scene. They gradualy moved into the area," the Squire was guessing " about 3000 years ago."

"That's right, isn't it, Rhonda?"

"You're telling story dear, I'm going to stay out of it."

"Well anyway from that time on, from what I gather," said the Squire, "Rhonda didn't have a dull moment. She was often picked up, sometimes two or three times a day by various strangers passing by along the beach."

"I never minded the attention."

"Many years passed and Rhonda enjoyed the reputation of being one of the oldest residents along that part of the coast"

"But go on, tell the story about the big storm."

"Yes well, here is where I come into the picture. Some time later, I'd say back about 175 years ago, while I was sailing from North America in the hold along with a lot of other granite ballast, we strayed from our course and ended up running aground not far from Whitehaven. Running aground was tough break for the ship and the crew, but it was a nice break for us. I spent a good few years enjoying a long relaxing ocean-bed holiday."

"The storm, dear."

He paused again, looked at the rain and then launched into her favorite part of the story.

"At the turn of the century a very big storm blew in off Iceland. There were huge great breakers the size of small mountains, smashing into the shore. It churned the coastline waters up so violently many of us were washed up onto the beach."

"We ended up meeting and falling in love."

"I believe you wanted me to tell the story dear?"

"I had been cast up onto the briny shore only to find myself lying beside the most beautiful piece of rounded granite I had ever seen in my life. "

"You were quite a hunk yourself"

"I knew it was going to be the start of a lovely long 'rocky relationship'. Oh, It was quite 'Tectonic' at first, of course . We discussed how far the continental drift had strayed, and how the earth's lithospheric crust was made.

We talked of many things...

Of shale and schist, and sealing cracks
And amethyst and slates
And why debris forms mountain scree
And why the earth has plates

We spoke of sub-atomic mass
Of particles and strings,
Of quantum leaps and isotopes
And earth's magnetic rings."

The Squire stopped and took a breath. "Things started to develop fairly quickly after that."

Stone Story. Segment Two. Part 4

The Squire (the cube shaped granite rock), having told the other rocks how he had ended up meeting the beautiful round stone Rhonda, when he had been first washed up on the beach at St Bees Head, continued to tell the story of how their friendship slowly evolved.

"There was a gradual metamorphosis." He told them.

At first they gave each other a lot of space. They learned to appreciate each other's various facets. The main thing that they had going for them was the fact that they were both fairly elderly. It was an important part of their makeup. Being many million years old enabled them to have perspective, and not feel they had to rush into anything. The fact that they were both 'mature' was one of theessential elements to their 'getting along, as essential as oxygen and silicon, the other two most common elements contained in rocks.

Stones don't often 'fit in' with each other if they are not of similar ages. The older the better. Stonework looks too busy, too disjointed and quite unrestful if their are fresh split stones, or newer looking stones, especially if it is mixed in with weathered, older looking stones. Generally stones like being built together with others who are of a similar age, sharing the same time period. If this is not possible, they need to at least have spent a similar length of days above ground.

New stonework, where every stone appears freshly cut, may look stunning, crisp and clever but it will not likely have the depth, the character and the rustic appeal of walls built with older untooled stone. Stones that give no indication of their having be chiseled, or drilled or sawn or even polished, will gladly yield to a mason who is tuned in and wants to have them look their best. The charm of modernity can not compare with the beauty of age. The sense of history even in new stonework, that sense that it has been there for a long time, a quality which is so appealing in walls and buildings made of stone, is something not to be resisted or suppressed. Most rocks, being of such a great age, prefer to have this enduring attribute emphasized. Their permanence and long-lasting durability is something to be celebrated. They are troubled by those who strive merely to make a stone structure look new. This is because they know better than humans that it is far too easy to create something that looks new.

Rocks don't need to look new. They don't need to change much, or be changed. They are not big on novelty. They find it hard to conform to fads and fashions. They laugh at the idea of anyone trying to modernize them, or try to fabricate or duplicate their genuinely natural look.

Rocks love to be together but they are not into reproduction. They love to fit well with each other, but they are not into synthesis or artificiality. A good waller 'marries' stones of different sizes and shapes into a wall, allowing for their variety to compliment the overall look. Forced conformity is not attractive. It detracts from a marriage.

The Squire and Rhonda were opposite shapes. It didn't take much to see that they were 'attracted' to each other. It was a physical, even structural kind of attraction that would last a long time, and they knew would work well in a wall one day.

Stone Story. Segment Two. Part 5

"It's the gloves!" announced the Squire, (the squarish stone) "When he had them off he could hear what we were saying."

"But even with them on he knew exactly where we wanted to be placed in the wall" interrupted one of the rocks off the wall, "and he was fitting all the stones better than any wallers we've ever been in touch with "

"Yes, but your right Squire," said Rhonda (the round rock) "I remember now, it was when he didn't have them on that he actually overheard our conversation. He knew exactly what we were saying. But after he put them on it wasn't the same"

"It was remarkable thing to happen anyway." added Myron. " And it is extraordinary that any human could ever achieve his kind of skill."

"What do we do now?" The five stones huddled in a pile with some the other rocks beside the newly repaired section of wall.

Three weeks had past since Andy, the amazing dry stone waller, had left off doing the gapping (fixing the damage to the dry stone wall ) not far from Wasdale. The stones had not seen anyone in the valley since then.

The repairs to the wall had indeed been exceptional. Every one of the stones had been snugly fitted with its neighbor and the new section of wall was seamlessly bonded to the old wall.

"We all feel really secure here. It's feels like we have always been here too" said one of the stones in the wall.

In fact Andy had done a great job of stacking the stones, as good as any one of them would have done, had they 'wanted' to, themselves, which of course, being so highly evolved, they were not wont to do.

They did wonder whether Andy would come back again, and if he did, would he be able to hear them talking, or would he be wearing his gloves.

Stone Story. Segment Two. Part 6

The five stones discussed the implications of the talented Cumbrian waller seemingly having the ability to tune into their actual conversation, and the possibilities that this presented to them for contacting humans directly.

But some of the stones were concerned it might be a bad thing. It was obvious that solidarity amongst the stones had yet to be achieved.

"If he comes around again we all need to just stay quiet! " said the twin rocks. "It's not natural that a human should be able to 'pick up' stones in any way, except of course physically.

"But masons and wallers and even architects often 'pick up' our intentions" said Rhonda. "and they go on to build exactly what we tell them"

"Yes but that's all. It was never supposed to be any more than that. Nothing good will come of this nosey eavesdropping in on our personal conversations. Millions of years of privacy now are about to be shattered. And where will it stop?"

"Yes but it could be a tremendous advantage too" said the Squire "Such an individual might be able to be a spokesperson for the entire world of aggregate minerals making up the earth's crust."

"And that person could better explain to humans the dangers of excessive stone crushing, wasteful extraction and large scale concrete production and why it is so wrong to be doing all those other things that Myron was telling us about ."

"Go ahead tell them" said the Squire

Myron proceeded to explain the details to Michael and Hannah, whose isolated existence (until they were recently split up) as part of the cumbrian bedrock, had cut them off from witnessing much of this present post-modern age, and thus they were ignorant of the declining state of the stonemasonry industry and the so-called advancements in the field of stone-fabrication, with the manufacturing of phony products such as Cultured Stone and Ariscraft man-made stone.

Stone Story. Segment Two. Part 7

The next day the valley, which is often shrouded in mist, was unusually dark and foggy. The Scribe who had spent most of the morning deep in meditation, suddenly sensed someone approaching. A solitary waller appeared out of the mist, walking up the footpath. He was carrying a black rubber bucket, the type wallers use to carry their tools in or fill with hearting stones.

The Squire (the square stone) nudged Rhonda and whispered "He's back."

Andy put down his bucket, looked around, took out his gloves and sat down on a large rock to rest for a moment. Then he began to put a few stones on the wall.

He looked at the Squire, bent over and picked him up slowly.

The Squire felt heavy in Andy's hands. The wetness was abrasive and Andy thought about putting on his gloves. Instead he shifted the weight of the cube shaped stone from hand to hand, as if pondering some deep mystery. The regular planes of the stone with its several right angles actually made it a challenging shape to place in a wall of otherwise irregular rounded beck-stones. Andy studied the bedding plane. He looked for a natural batter. Though it had several faces that could be described as 'desirable', in terms of colour and patina, Andy would be committed to placing it in the wall in a way that was structurally correct. Dry stone walls built so as to be decorative are often not very beautiful and certainly not well built. Walls built to be strong and permanent end up being structural and almost always beautiful as well.

Andy studied the wall. Where was he going to place the Squire? The course of stones he had previously started needed a 'next' stone that straddled a gap between two roundish ones. The natural tendency with any 'square' stones would be to lay them level, placed flat across the joint. 'One over two, two over one'. Andy intuitively knew this. He also knew there was a solution which augmented that rule in this case. He placed the Squire on the diagonal so that one corner nestled between the two round stones below. It was a spacial solution that allowed for the stones in that part of the wall to tighten up along the wall instead of just slump downwards with any shifting of the foundation.

"Nice" said Rhonda, looking up and admiring how the Squire had been placed.

Andy was sure he heard something. He stood up and looked around. No one was around.
The valley was still cloaked in a dark haze.

He started back to work again, placing other stones on the wall. They all fit perfectly.

"Nice work" said Rhonda.

Andrew turned his head quickly and looked directly at the round stone.

Stone Story. Segment Two. Part 8

Andy knelt down and picked up Rhonda, the round-shaped stone. He carefully studied the subtle gradations of pink and grey banding on the smooth outer surface of the stone. He bounced it up and down in his hands, getting a feel for its weight, and then gently rolling and turning it over as if it were alive, and hesitating briefly, he said.

"You are a very round stone. Very round, and very smooth. Where am I going to put you?"

He turned to the wall and shifted a couple of other stones and then cleverly placed Rhonda not far from the square stone.

Feeling good about his decision he announced in a matter of fact tone, "Right there is a good place for you, I think " as if it was the most normal thing to be talking to a stone.

"Well done."

He heard it ! As clearly as if someone had spoken it. No doubt. No confusion. It was the stone that had spoken to him. A stone! A cold hard lifeless inanimate object. A dumb stone. How could that be?

Andy stepped back and looked at Rhonda.

He knew inside that the next moments in his life were going to be monumental. He knew that if he chose to, he would be stepping beyond anything explainable, beyond the bounds of mankind's experience in terms of communicating with matter, beyond the realms of human interaction with anyone or anything except their own species. He paused and took a great breath.

Was he going to really try to try to talk to a stone? Yes, he had done it thousands of times. Cursed them, complained, told them what he intended to do with them, wondered where they came from, praised them when they broke the right way, and so many other meaningless insignificant comments. But here and now was something of such a different order of magnitude, the strangeness, the awkwardness, left him almost paralyzed.

"How do you talk to a stone?" He thought. "How do you really talk to a stone? What do you say? Do you say, I am Andy, who are you?"

The idea of saying anything became completely unimaginable. His heart was racing. He purposely tried to slow his breath down.

"Can you hear me?" was not going to work. It sounded pathetic, too needy, he thought to himself.

The stories of Saint Francis came to mind - the monk who was friends with the animals, and yes even spoke to the sky and the earth and all sorts of things.

"Hello brother tree, hello brother stone," Andy sounded the words in his mind. "That was pretty much what he said, wasnt it? A formal greeting, not overly familiar, just a natural convincingly understated acknowledgment of another's presence"

Andy was frozen in time, his mouth was drying up, his thoughts blurring into one another.

Stone Story. Segment Two. Part 9

Rhonda who herself had just been placed in the dry stone wall that he was repairing, had figured out by this time that, impossible as it seemed, Andy had somehow acquired the ability to hear whatever it was the stones were saying. The round stone had merely commented on Andy's previous very clever placement of the square stone in the wall. Andy, on hearing this, had become visibly shaken.

Michael, one of the twin stones, glared disapprovingly at Rhonda, indicating that she should have just stayed quiet. All the stones watched as Andy, an extremely competent waller, and quite in the habit of talking to them in the past, when faced with the possibility of actually having an intelligent conversation with them, was completely incapacitated and unable to think of anything to say. The stunning realization that stones might be fully cognizant and have the power to think and communicate with one another, though confirming his deepest suspicions, now left him utterly speechless.

"You're afraid you'll say the wrong thing?" Rhonda suggested, unable to stay quiet any longer. Several of the other more cautious stones on hearing this winced and looked the other way.

"You feel sheepish? Intimidated? Overwhelmed?" added the Squire, from his perch two courses below "That's understandable."

Andy stared at the square stone in disbelief.

"If it helps," added Myron, "We are as surprised as you."

Andy, even more dumbfounded now, turned to see where these words had come from and saw merely a pyramid-shaped chunk of sandstone lying near a pile of other rocks waiting to be built into the wall.

Andy stepped backwards. "Wha.. what is going on?"

Stone Story. Segment Two. Part 10

Andy desperately looked around to see if there might be someone hiding behind the wall, someone playing a trick on him perhaps.
It was just him and the stones.
He had always been able to make the pieces fit, but now he was beginning to think he was going crazy.

"It looks like a window into our world has been open to you, Andy. Don't be afraid." Myron whispered.

"Who are you, and what do you want?"

None of the stones could think of what it was they wanted. Stones, as noted before, don't actually experience want or fear. They have transcended these temporal sates, and while they might imagine how things could be better and have preferences sometimes, they are not technically wants, in that their needs are not affected by uncertainty and selfishness, but more by purpose. The lack of any sense of purposelessness amongst the entire mineral world has been the main stabilizing factor of the universe. Rocks are 'rock solid' and sure of what they are and what they are about. That the animate world is in transition and is always leaning this way and that, trying to achieve some localized temporary end, some self-seeking advantage, some higher evolved state, is of little concern to them.

While the rocks are grieved that humans are so unenlightened as to be excessively extracting and constantly grinding them up to make concrete aggregates and other manmade products, (that neither last nor look as beautiful as stone) rather than continuing along the true path and ancient craft of 'stonework', it is not 'wishing' that will change any of this. And though they know that everything would be much better if men resolved to continue in cooperation with stones, rather than trying to look for more and more so-called concrete answers, it is stone's firmness and resolve which has always prevailed in the end, not any wishy-washy 'desire' for change.

Change after all is only a measure of the temporal.

To be continued....