Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Right Rock

 


I'm making rock walls again.

I've made a bunch already: rock-lined gravel paths meander through the garden. We're all about basalt here. I mean, half of Oregon is basalt from repeated lava flows so massive they shoved the Columbia River all the way up to Astoria even before Astoria had been properly invented. We've got shit-tons of basalt.

And it makes good walls. So I started looking for nice chunks of basalt lying around on the side of the road and Dave got used to me slamming on the brakes and hopping out to toss rocks into the back of my car. At least he was decent about it. Not sure he got used to it. Because at some point he just called up a gravel quarry and asked if we could pop in there and toss rocks into our pickup truck. (Dave, famously, likes to "knock a job out," whereas I am a fiddle-farter.) Doggone if the quarry operator, who had never had such a request, thought maybe we could, and we drove up there and checked in and he sent us to a remote portion of the property and we started lobbing in as much basalt as we thought we could safely drive home. The quarry operator looked at our haul and said, Hmm, how about ten bucks, does that sound fair? And we thought it did, and in fact we came back at least three more times, because I really, really like rock paths. At some point the quarry guy must have heard from a lawyer or something because he turned the spigot off, but at that point I was pretty much done.


It takes a while to put a nice rock-lined path together, particularly if you aren't shaping the rocks in any way, and aren't real strong, and have standards. You sit on your haunches and pick out one rock after another and turn it every which way until you find one that fits just right. The right one goes in chonk and it makes you so very happy. I do not know why I enjoy this so much but some part of my brain was set up to be a teeny tiny mason. I like to see things go chonk.

It feels a lot like writing, for me. I can toss off a sentence with the rest of them but I'm always revisiting it and trying out different verbs and turning them this way and that until something goes chonk.

    "Soon, all over town, we were seeing the improbable new style phenomenon called the muffin-top." Nope.

My rock walls aren't professional-looking,but they're still pleasing to the eye, and so satisfying to build that I don't care how long they take. They're not built to be walked on, but try telling a four-year-old that. Especially the first ones I made, when I'd put in a rock with no solid base at all because it fit so well with the next one over, and I'd back-fill it with dirt and strategic pebbles and hope it wouldn't pop out, but of course it eventually did. Later I worked harder at using good solid rocks with a fat base and those have stayed put better. 

    "Soon, all over town, people were perching size-eighteen buttocks on top of size-twelve jeans like their pants were an ass pedestal." Nope.

This spring I decided to cut in a new path. It's going all right. But it's a lot harder because the rocks I have left over are all the rocks that didn't work out the first time. They don't have good flat facets, or the shape is wrong, or there are too many roundy bits, or things stick out. It's like putting a jigsaw puzzle together when pieces are missing and a third of them were swapped out for Parcheesi pawns. Or like having an old brain that won't supply the right word when you need it. But I've got time. I intend to prevail, however long it takes.

    "Soon, great rolling cumulonimbus mounds of flesh were thundering out of pants all over town."

Chonk.


33 comments:

  1. Paul and I used to kidnap rocks from a local park. When they built I-95, they dumped a lot of rocks by a creek in this park, so while Paul would go running, I'd toss rocks that pleased my aesthetic sensibilities (in other words -- ones that I could lift) into the truck. When we would come across a construction site, we would drive up and abscond with whatever rocks were lying about. Back when he drove a concrete mixer, Paul would sometimes come across a rock that he knew I would like. "Ooo... Mimi would like THIS rock!" he would say, to his co-workers bafflement.

    We used these rocks to line and edge the pond that we dug in a low-lying area of our yard. (It obviously wanted to be a pond, so we encouraged it in its dream.) We also have river rocks to line our pathways and smaller river stones on the actual paths. (These we had delivered from a company that sells such things. We could never gather enough on our own for this purpose.) Every decade or so, we get a load of river stones to augment ones who have managed to tun away.

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    1. They did some blasting when the built Graylyn Crest back in the 50s and up the street from my house was a rock with a big three-toed footprint! I wonder if it is still there?

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    2. Where in Graylyn Crest was it? Do you remember the street? I go there almost every week when I go garage-saling. I'd love to see it!

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    3. That would really be lucky if it wasn't stolen. People even jackhammer out petroglyphs when they get a chance.

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    4. About a block below Silverside Rd. There was a creek and a basketball court and two large dark boulders next to each other. It's on top of one of them.

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    5. They call it Chatham Park now.

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    6. I'll look when I'm out that way tomorrow and see if I can find it. I'll let you know.

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  2. I tend to make small henges out of our local basalt, but I know what you mean about having a good flat base. Unlike the base for a muffin top.

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    1. I think that the best base for a muffin top is an actual muffin. Usually in GREAT quantity.

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    2. The base for my muffin top is getting flatter all the time.

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  3. "Ass pedestal" chonks pretty well for me.

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  4. Back when I did field work in the NJ Meadowlands, I used to take advantage of the company pickup and the neat rocks that had been dumped at our field sites. I would fill up the bed of the company truck, then when I got back to base, back it up to my truck and offload them. A few times those rocks were huge. Turns out if you have a three hundred pound glacier rounded boulder in the bed of your pickup truck and it decides to see what the other side of the pickup truck is like as you drive down the Parkway, the entire truck decides it wants to try another lane. Probably shouldn't have done that either during a hurricane...

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  5. We live in an area that doesn't have many rocks EXCEPT around reclaimed mine land. We do a lot of birding in these areas. There isn't a decent sized rock near the roads that we travel anymore.

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    1. I like how the rock projects differ across the country depending on what-all they have in the way of formations. Here it's just about all basalt but my sister can get pink gravel.

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  6. Did you know Robinson Jeffers was also an amateur stonemason? He once wrote that “[his] fingers had the art / To make stone love stone.”

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  7. I LOVE your rock paths, I really do, but all I can think about now is humungous butts and beer bellies squeezed into size four shorts, and that's the men!

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  8. In Connecticut, my dad gathered pieces of granite from a newly-built dam. I don't think the authorities would have appreciated his pilfering, but I am certain that the suspension of our Pontiac Bonneville did not appreciate it. When the streets in downtown Hartford were torn up to do who-remembers-what, he collected the last century's cobblestones, which required almost no thought to fit together in the garden. When a neoclassic bank building downtown was demolished, we slipped in through the gap in the chainlink and hauled out the largest fragments of cornices that we could carry. A neighbor told the police that we were robbing the bank. The police showed up and helped us carry. Others own that house now, and I have no idea if any of his work survives. In our California yard, the rocks are mostly incompletely-consolidated sandstone embedded in the adobe ground. After a few years, any wall we make of them weathers badly, and crumbles.

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    1. I remember those mid-century homes in Virginia where I grew up (we called them "new") made of sandstone bricks. I always imagined they'd slump into sand.

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  9. Yep. Writing is a little like chiseling until you're satisfied. (Love your rock garden edging.) And I wish I had your rocks, both kinds.

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    1. Wait a minute! I don't have *those* kind of rocks!

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  10. I love your Rock Walls and they are visually pleasing. I am totally infatuated right now with Gabion Walls and plan to have some for a Visionary Victory Garden Raised but able to let the Irrigation seep thru it to water all of the Imaginary Veggies and Herbs I plan to grow as if we're going off grid and will never again have to do Death Runs to Grocers during a never ending Pandemic. A Girl can Dream...

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  11. Loved the sentence editing example of a Chonk!

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  12. Rock lovers live here, too. A bit different than the rock collectors who live at my son's house. Husband absolutely loves the red and green rocks in Glacier National Park. Every time we visit, he laments the rules/laws that prohibit removing them from the Park. Otherwise, i am certain that we would have had several car loads brought home with us over the years.

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  13. I'm trying to imagine how those rock walls stay up. They don't collapse in a rainfall? They look absolutely wonderful. I'm love to have them too.

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