Stone Zen

9 Feb

Something about working with stone that just soothes the head while beating the body. Maybe it’s the satisfaction of combining physical labor with creativity. And accomplishing something, usually functional and practical. Sometimes, it’s only aesthetics.

I had learned stone work in Maine from just doing it; trail and error. Maine’s largest crop is rock. Pick up all the rock in one location and more will sprout within a short time. Walk through the dense woods and you will find old rock walls over 200 years old. Most foundations of earlier houses and barns were made of rock. The corner of my cabin sat on granite ledge; that is one big rock. With rock everywhere, it was a cheap building material. For the price of hard labor. But that didn’t stop me.

I built a retaining wall along two sides of the cabin with steps made of railroad ties and stone. Incorporated into the corner of the retaining wall was a tall rock garden, filled with herbs, woodland strawberries, and perennial flowers. Stone and I seemed to be a match; our relationship kept me busy and in shape for the many years I lived in the Maine woods.

It’s been many years since the stones have spoken to me. Until my routine visits to Big Bend area. I began bringing home small rocks to scatter around the house, in the small vegetable garden, in front of the house. Then we started getting serious, the stone and I. We’ve brought back to El Punto many loads of rock. The first project was the fire pit, with a large elevated slab nearby to serve as a cooking table. Then another slab near the end of the point overlooking Black Creek Draw for a contemplating bench. Then……

Stone stoop.

From several rock scavenging runs, I began to build a rock compost pile. That was interrupted by an impulse: the outhouse needed a flagstone stoop. Beginning with narrow stones, the perimeter of a semi-circle took shape. With a rough shape in place, I began gathering flat stones to fill in. Like a jigsaw puzzle, stones were placed, moved, wiggled, removed, replaced until finally the interior of the semi-circle took shape. I even robbed the beginning compost bin for the right rock. A chip here, a wiggle there, it was done.

Leftover fine aggregate that Ed had screened from a wheelbarrow of mixed roadbase to use for adobe block mix filled in between the stones. After sweeping the stones of excess grains, I walked around on them to help settling. I knew that more aggregate would have to be added, but that’s part of the process. You don’t wipe your hands and walk away thinking it’s all completely done. Stone projects age like fine wine, and sometimes you have to add a bit here or there.

Ed shares my penchant for rock. At his suggestion one very cold morning, we bundled up and took the truck out to retrieve a load of wonderfully flat stone that had been chiseled and uplifted by the road grader. The pile ended up near the ramada for inclusion in the south wall and the floor. Small flat rock will also surround the metal posts on the west side.

Perhaps the compost bin will be finished. Some time.

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