A Year in Stone

Once again, dry stone construction has taken me around the seasons. Work that employed the simplest of means culminated in a complexity of projects and events. There were presentations, workshops, consultations and proposals. There were utilitarian constructions, memorials and art installations. There was even a grant awarded and inclusion in a magazine article and a book. The year in stone took me around New England, to other countries and back in time.

The most curious stone experience I had in 2014 was visiting some ancient structures newly discovered by archaeologists right here in Vermont. I was shown a forty acre site in the Green Mountain National Forest with over one hundred enigmatic dry stone cairns. Their creation is ambiguous due to the lack of any reference to them over the years even though the history of the land has been thoroughly chronicled since its first European settler.

In Scotland, where archeologists have been working for centuries, I met a stone carver who reimagined a colossal standing stone at the site of an original Pictish monument that now resides in the National Museum of Scotland.

2014 was my year for memorial making. Beginning with a pair of seats built into a local cemetery wall, and crowned by a dry stone arch, I moved on to a Connecticut cemetery to create a columbarium. The broad, low wall will shelter fifty steel compartments for cremation remains. The third memorial was dedicated to a couple by their children. Overlapping, inscribed stones pay tribute to their memory.

New Hampshire fence mending was in the mix early in 2014. Before the snow was off, I was on the ground rebuilding three hundred yards of dilapidated farm wall. Old walls in similar condition were turned into an environmental art piece by students of mine in a Newfoundland workshop later in the summer. New work on a Vermont farm in the autumn realized a client’s dream for a stone composter. And an ongoing deer fence construction on a New Hampshire hilltop will stitch 2014 into the new year, making ready for next summer’s vegetable gardening.

Barring calamity, 2015 will be my fortieth year working in dry stone. I’ll then be able to say I’ve just got started.