Fieldstone Consulting, Inc.®
Stone & Fieldstone: Selected Quotations
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fieldstoneThe quotations collected here are intended to give some sense of the richness of history, connotation, and image associated with stone and fieldstone—from the descriptions of common stone (seen in various contexts as common, personal and individual, divine, troublesome, and even evil), to the many ways in which they can be used and brought together ("alchemy," "magic," community, and divinity all figure in), to the final products (beautiful, functional, durable, and natural). For me, this literature provides steady and meaningful context within which to consider my own work as consultant.


Michael Gaige, "Stone on Stone: A Natural and Social History of Cairns," Appalachian Mountain Club Outdoors, March/April 2013

"Stacking stones is old business. Trail Builders in the Northeast picked up the tradition from ancient cultures. The Scots may be best known for it; after all, the word cairn originates from a Gaelic term for 'heap of stones'. But the rather prosaic definition does little justice to a tradition stretching back millennia and across continents. The early Norse used stones as precursors to lighthouses, marking important navigational sites in the maze-like Norwegian fjords. Vikings blazed routes across Iceland with varda (Icelandic for cairn) more than a thousand years ago. Cairns cross deserts on three continents and dot the Tibetan Plateau, the Mongolian steppe, and the Inca Road system of the Andes. Erected for navigation, spiritual offering, or as monuments of remembrance, heaps of stone occur in just about every treeless landscape in which one finds loose rock.

"When European explorers began plying the arctic coast, they concealed messages (often their last) describing their discoveries in prominent cairns. They also dismantled many indigenous cairns thinking a comrade had hidden a message within.

"Across the North American Arctic, Inuit people construct stone monuments called Inuksuk. Meaning 'to act in the capacity of a human', an inuksuk, like a cairn, can relay a variety of messages: memorial, resource site, or safe passage. The 2010 Vancouver Olympic logo portrayed an innunguaq – an inuksuk with a human-like form.

"The extent to which American Indians in the Northeast constructed cairns is unknown. A scattering of evidence suggests they stacked stones for burials and memorials. A cluster of cairns atop a prominent peak in southern Vermont could predate European exploration. But because there is no reliable way to date the structures the architect remains a mystery…

"As a hiking culture, we have, it seems, an infatuation with piles of rock. Or maybe we have an infatuation with ourselves, and piling up stone is an opportunity to leave our mark in what many might deem a most innocuous way… But the tradition of stacking stones came not from building a monument to one's self. It was to build for others – a memorial or a navigational aid. The intent lacked ego; it was just the opposite, an act of service."


Mary Gage and James Gage, A Guide to New England Stone Structures: Stone Cairns, Stone Walls, Standing Stones, Chambers, Foundations, Wells, Culverts, Quarries and Other Structures, (Amesbury, MA, 2006).

"Within the Native American culture cairns have been documented as far back as 5,000 years ago…

"Cairns built by Native Americans that have survived are found in groups. The size of group varies greatly from as little as ten to several hundred. Cairns within these groups are randomly placed in a defined area. There is no defined pattern within the groups. Some groups are partially or totally enclosed by stone walls. Each group is comprised of several different types of cairns. These styles have been found to repeat themselves from one geographical area to another. They appear to have some kind of inherent language within a geographical area. Outside the geographical area that language is subject to change.

"Native Americans primarily used cairns for ritual and sacred purposes. The historical evidence indicates that cairns were used as trailside shrines, as memorials to a deceased person or important historical events, as places for ritual offerings and other ceremonial activities."


Hannah Holmes, "Rock and Roll: How a Glacier Pushed A Boulder to a Place Near You," National Geographic, March 2012

"If some people doubt the staying power of those boulders, they need only consult the Rollstone. Long ago, it resided at the edge of town [Fitchburg, MA], hovering like Humpty Dumpty on the brink of an expanding quarry. Its fan club, fearing it would tumble in, blasted it to pieces, hauled 100 tons of it to its place of honor, and put it together again. There it has stood since 1930, surrounded by traffic signs, fire hydrants, bikes, and strollers – and every May, admiring townsfolk planting a garden around it."


Stephanie Pappas, "Stonehenge Inspired by Sound Illusion, Archaeologist Suggests," Huff Post Science, February 17, 2012

"Theories about the purpose of Stonehenge range from a secular calendar to a place of spiritual worship. Now, an archeologist suggests that the Stonehenge monument in southern England may have been an attempt to mimic a sound-based illusion. If two pipers were to play in a field, observers walking around the musicians would hear a strange effect, said Steven Waller, a doctoral researcher at rock Art Acoustics USA, who specializes in the sound properties of ancient sites, or archaeoacoustics. At certain points, the sound waves produced by each player would cancel each other out, creating spots where the sound is dampened. It's this pattern of quiet spots that may have inspired Stonehenge, Waller told an audience Thursday. The theory is highly speculative, but modern-day experiments do reveal that the layout of the Stonehenge ruins and other rock circles mimic the pipe illusion, with stones instead of competing sound waves blocking out sounds made in the center of the circle. In support of the theory, Waller pointed to myths linking Stonehenge with music, such as the traditional nickname for stone circles in Great Britain – 'piper stones'. One legend holds that Stonehenge was created when two magic pipers led maidens into the field to dance and then turned them to stone…"


Charles H. Trautmann, Executive Director, Sciencenter, Ithaca, NY, and Geologist

"Fieldstone is such neat stuff! Every place on earth has it, and it's different every place you go!"


William A. Weary, President, Fieldstone Consulting, Inc.

"Having moved now to my home in Maine, I find myself paying even closer attention to the rocks and stones all about — on roads, in walls, in piles — and I'm taking special pleasure and interest in those with stripes. Depending on the shape of the stone, the stripes may make circles, Vs, or simple straight lines. Their thickness may vary as well as their color and texture. And if I were to be opening Fieldstone Consulting today, I'd be tempted to call it Striped Rock Consulting."


Mariana Cook, Stone Walls: Personal Boundaries (Bologna, 2011)

"I had always thought of stones as being hard, heavy, and immovable. Indeed they can be, but I came to understand how vulnerable and fragile they are too. Sometimes there's a crack running through a rock and the rock will break over time. Often, lichen grows on them. Rocks will fall from a wall when vines or tree roots grow through them. Untended, the walls tumble down."


Thomas B. F. Cummins, "'Boiling Bloody Stones': Seeing Inca Walls," in Mariana Cook, Stone Walls: Personal Boundaries (Bologna, 2011)

"Where we see the stasis of simple hardness and labor, and marvel at them, Arguedas, an Andean, recalls the Quechua songs that sing to him through surfaces and joints, and as he recalls them, the stones become as alive as a raging river. In the Andean world, there is a concept called camay, which describes the potential for a divine, metaphysical presence to exist within all objects in nature. Arguedas invokes this anthropomorphic notion with regard to the stones of the Inca walls, as do many other writers and artists. The sixteenth century Andean artist, Guaman Pomo de Ayala, depicts, in two different images, an event, which concerns a large stone being dragged from one site to the next. At a certain point, so the accompanying description tells us, the stone becomes too tired and weeps blood, the same blood that Arguedas hears sung of to him on the walls of Cuzco."


Taylor Antrim, "One Man's Quarry: David Luster will go anywhere to find exquisite stone for his limited-edition tubs," Forbes Life (December 14, 2010)

"Stone is a wonderfully tactile substance, and it radiates hot water's heat against the skin – but it is aesthetically unpredictable. No one can say with certainty what the inside of a block will look like; hence no two stone baths are alike."


Patrick McAfee, Irish Stone Walls (Dublin: The O'Brien Press, 1997)

"Stone is a material inextricably linked to the history of the human race. It has offered shelter from the climate, protection from enemies, housed gods, reflected the wealth of kings and recorded the coming and going of the seasons. It has been used to make both tools and weapons of war, to make the wheel to grind corn, to carve and sculpt and to commemorate the honoured and the dead. The act of accomplishing anything of size in stone involves the organisation of labour and other support services. A civilisation that achieved high standards of work in stone therefore was invariably one that was relatively stable and sophisticated."


"Stones," The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible (New York, 1962)

"It is quite possible that the Israelites shared the feeling common among other early Semites that stones, perhaps meteorites, partook of the nature of the divine. E.g., pre-Islamic Arabs engaged in the worship of stones; cf. the use of the Kaaba Stone in the corner of the Mosque at Mecca as an object of worship. Gilgal means 'circle', and the stones set up there (Josh. 4) may represent an early circle for stone-worshipers, recalling the megalithic remains at Stonehenge in England. The hardness and strength of stones lent symbolic meaning to their use in metaphorical language. The NT refers to them in object lessons as sterile, dumb, or inedible...a living stone is a stone that is sound, not broken."


William Hubbell, Good Fences: A Pictorial History of New England's Stone Walls (Camden, ME: Down East Books, 2006)

"The inner part of the wall is as important as the outer part of the wall, it's the heart of the wall. Most people think of the inner part of the wall as the rubble of the wall. That's definitely not the case with drystone work. The integrity of a drystone wall has to be throughout. There is nothing ostentatious about drywall, that's for sure. The problem today is that not many people know how to build a drystone wall or are willing to spend the time. But when done properly, it won't fall over and it will outlast any wet wall. Unfortunately, you can't convince many people of that because they just think of the short term – getting the wall up fast and inexpensively."

"Working with stone walls is a very meditative thing for me. When I first started out doing stone walls, I used to practice this mindfulness. I'd pick up stone after stone and just stay in the present. It created great peace of mind. You're just into the material and into each shape. You're not getting sidetracked mixing and using cement. You're just using that pile of rock and turning it into stone. If you find yourself getting annoyed, it will beat you up! It will hurt your back. It will hurt your fingers. But if you are at peace with it, it's the best." (Wall builder Tim Currier)

"Stone is something that is so primordial. It's the stuff from which soil is made. It's everywhere. The earth is basically a stone. So I think that it may be completely unconscious or subconscious, but stone is an instinctive part of who we are as humans." (Wall builder Michael Weitzner)

"New Hampshire's Canterbury Shaker village, founded in 1792, grew and prospered. Convinced that hard work, simplicity, and orderliness were necessary for living a fully spiritual life, members of this religious community worked with a passion. Seeking to create a heaven on earth, they felt that laying up beautiful stone walls helped in creating a heavenly order."


Ellen Goodman, "Transient Summers," Down East (April 2009)

"These are the summer days when the island is overrun with gifts. The raspberries are still ripe, and the first of the blackberries have arrived bearing their sweet intimations of fall.

"Food is there for the picking. To pass up this generosity would be a supreme act of ingratitude. So I head out this morning with my small bucket.

"Along the dirt road there is a dilapidated stone wall. Blueberries and chokecherries, wildflowers and bushes have pushed their way around and under the remains, toppling what once marked the neat border of a seaside farm.

"It is one of the many such old walls that you stumble across here, souvenirs of the effort it took our nineteenth-century predecessors to cultivate a place where rocks were a more predictable crop than potatoes and a more plentiful harvest than clams.

"Coming upon these relics, I wonder again at the effort it took to make these walls, our New England monuments. When the farmers finished, did they step back, look at their immense work with satisfaction and say, 'There. All done'? Was the wall their art or artifact? Was the border a legacy left to their heirs the way others leave books and pictures to provide a permanent marker?...

"In some way, we all try to mark our own territory. We want the byline for our labor. We excavate stones and build walls out of them. We create lives. Then nature, in its benign indifference, takes over, upending the illusion of power and permanence.

"So here I am this morning, out where the land has upended the human wall, casting stones aside. Enough berries have grown in its place to fill my bucket to the brim. And the day is bittersweet."


Bernard Rudofsky, The Prodigious Builders. Notes Toward a Natural History of Architecture with Special Regard to those Species that are Traditionally Neglected or Downright Ignored (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977)

"There was a time when men got together for no other purpose than to put up mile-long processions of good-for-nothing but enchanting monoliths; or to compose a stone circle, that elementary roundelay at which the inspired chimpanzee arrives without example or instructions. In the remote past, now dimmed to a flicker of racial memory, piling stone upon stone was neither a trade nor an art but more likely the consequence of an irrepressible urge. While some of the know-how that went with it transpired to people who kept an ear close to the ground, it remains obstinately alien to the city slicker..."

"The inelegant definition of architecture, perpetuated by pedants, as 'the art of so building as to apply both beauty and utility', obviously ought to be expanded to include that vast number of the least ornate of species, lumped together collectively as anonymous architecture. On the face of it, it seems preposterous that the vernacular, the very passkey to the understanding of alien cultures, should be so willfully ignored. Such prejudice does not redound to our honor—would we call botany a science if it dealt exclusively with lilies and roses? Perhaps because it comes mostly in small denominations, such as huts and homely houses, the vernacular fails to enlist respect. Yet one would think that its enormous variety alone, comparable to the variety of biological forms, ought to make it a subject of wide interest. To students of architecture, especially, it is invaluable as therapeutic irritant."

"Vernacular architecture owes its spectacular longevity to a constant redistribution of hard-won knowledge, channeled into quasi-intuitive reactions to the outer world. So-called primitive peoples have none of the devil-may-care attitude when confronted with the reality of their environment. Above all, they have no desire to dominate it."


"Edge of the World: Scotland's Hebrides Islands," National Geographic (January 2010)

"Named for the Isle of Lewis, where it was first described, Lewisian gneiss [the striped and mottled rock that forms the foundation of the Outer Hebrides] was born from volcanic activity deep in the crust more than three billion years ago. Intensively and repeatedly altered, lifted up by complex tectonic shifts, and revealed by massive erosion, it is the oldest rock in the British Isles and among the oldest in Europe. Perhaps the most evocative place to encounter Lewisian gneiss is in the great stone circle at Callanish, overlooking Loch Roag on Lewis. Erected between 4,500 and 4,900 years ago, the Callanish stones may have been standing longer than the central ring at Stonehenge. Little is known for certain of the builders beyond their obvious engineering prowess, but it seems fitting that one of the earliest monuments to the human occupation of the Hebrides should have been crafted of this immensely old rock. Other standing stones dot the isles, along with Bronze Age burial cairns and stout Iron Age fortifications - most likewise built from Lewisian gneiss. The crumbling remains summon up the spirits of mighty warriors, the terror of villagers attacked from the sea, and the determination of farmers, shepherds, and fisherfolk to make their homes on the edge of the world."


David L. Kennedy, "Desktop Archaeology," Saudi Aramco World (July/August 2009)

"The most striking [sites evident on Google Earth and figuring in the work of Abdullah Al-Saeed, www.alsahra.org on Saudi Arabia] are the so-called 'kites', the remnants of long stone walls most likely built by groups of hunters to trap game; the walls outline the shape of a child's kite. The kites are huge: The 'body' is a wall enclosing a corral-like space often 100 or more meters across. The 'tails', two or more walls running out form the head, are typically each a few hundred meters long, but they can be as long as two or three kilometers. On the ground, however, kites are almost impossible to find, because the walls, built of basalt boulders, are only about a meter wide and their surviving height is seldom over half a meter, making them nearly invisible on a landscape already thickly strewn with the same rock... Two other structures known in Jordan were also found again in the new Saudi Arabian windows. First are the 'wheels' that have been encountered widely; in Jordan, they are often located close to kites. They come in a variety of forms, most simply a near-perfect circle of 20 to 50 meters diameter in which six or more spokes create wedge-shaped chambers around a central hub... Now we come to the 'keyhole tombs' and the 'gates', both novelties of the Harrat Khaybar, structures that are striking because of their unexpected, unique forms and their astonishing numbers. The keyhole tombs usually consist of a circular enclosure at the head of stone walls that form an isosceles triangle... Also visible in the Harrat Khaybar window, mainly in the same area as kites but also further east, are hundreds of sites which can best be described as looking like simple gates laid flat: a 'post' at either end with two (but occasionally three to five) 'rails' in between. They can vary a great deal in size, from five or 10 meters long to a hundred meters or more. The key element is surely the posts, which appear to be dense heaps of boulders, and which may again be burial places."


Graham Chandler, "The Beginning of the End for Hunter-Gatherers," Saudi-Aramco World (March/April 2009)

"Sprawled before us today in the thirsty mid-morning heat of early September are dozens of megalithic monuments two to three meters high, arranged Stonehenge-like in four separate circles 10 to 30 meters across. In the center of each stand two taller monoliths, their flat and faceless heads staring southeast over the vast Mesopotamian plain, where, it is generally accepted, the planet's first agriculture bloomed. Sculpted onto most of the monuments are effigies of foxes, bulls, vultures, snakes, boars and some spiders: One bears a highly artistic rendering of a feline resembling a lion. Chair-high rock benches link most of the standing stones and there are bowl-sized depressions in front of a few of the stones, possibly for offerings."

"What is truly remarkable - and eminently arguable - is that these limestone pillars and their artwork may have been created by hunting-and-gathering peoples around 11,600 years ago, before the first fields of domesticated crops were planted anywhere in the world. However, no settlements that old have been found near the mound. Compounding the intrigue, the megaliths were intentionally - and perhaps ritually - buried under tons of fill 1,500 years later, about the time the agricultural revolution was radically altering millennia-old ways of life in southeastern Anatolia..."


Kevin Gardner, The Granite Kiss. Traditions and Techniques of Building New England Stone Walls (Woodstock, VT, 2001)

"Stones are like people, with individual personalities that express themselves as shapes, and the builder's job, in a way, is to surround each one with a group of compatible partners that conform to one another, nest on, over, and against one another, and compensate for one another's weaknesses as readily and familiarly as possible. The quality of the harmony among shapes that you build into your wall, stone by stone, is directly responsible for its beauty and a major contributor to its longevity." (54–55)

"But there is always a moment, sooner or later, when the immature jumble coalesces, and your wall achieves form and presence. Some walls take longer than others to reach this point—occasionally, full development isn't visible until the piece is capped and finished...In this respect, the act of building is an act of faith, all the more reason to pay attention to process before progress. The beauty of a good wall is an accumulation of small excellences, a deft, pleasing, personal pattern that can only be achieved one stone at a time." (115–116)

"The piling up of stones is a human activity ancient almost beyond calculation. Dry masonry belongs to every culture, in every part of the world where stones can be found. It is among the most primitive, practicable methods by which people organize their surroundings. After tens of thousands of years, it may be genetically or instinctually encoded in us, like our predispositions for language or art. 'Entire millennia of human labors are known to us solely through their stone leavings,' says Scott Sanders in his book about the limestone country of southern Indiana. 'The only common stuff that rivals it for durability is language.' So stone walls are beautiful because, even when they are new, they are very, very old. Theirs is a beauty of continuity with the ordinary work of people throughout history." (168–169)


"Opening of the Cairn Ceremony in Jefferson," Lincoln County News (May 23, 2007)

"Thirty-one years ago a crowd gathered at the former Jefferson (ME) Fire House to dedicate a stone cairn monument erected, as stated on the plaque, 'in gratitude to the men and women of Jefferson who served this country from the American Revolution to the present.' This event was one of many held in Jefferson during the 1976 Bicentennial observance of the United States of America. Reinald Benner, a decorated WWII combat veteran suggested building a monument to honor veterans. Arthur Quinn, a member of the 1976 U. S. Bicentennial executive committee, brought up the idea of using field stones from Jefferson homesteads for the monument. Beginning on the 'gathering of the stones' day, April 19, 1976, families from all parts of Jefferson brought stones they had chosen from their fields, farms, woods, and yards to add to the pile of rocks. Don Pierce, still a willing community volunteer, worked on constructing a base with the enthusiastic help of then young boys, Greg Bond, Danny Brilyea, and Scott Lund. Under the skilled hands of stonemason Ralph Burnham of Damariscotta, the huge pile of rocks so gathered was transformed into the memorial cairn. Joseph Noyes, in his dedication message on May 31, 1976, noted that 'Today many of these stones have taken a new identity. Each of these represents a service person, has a very special meaning to someone and each, a colorful history of its own.' ... Many adults, small children in 1976, remember wandering their land to find the most 'perfect' of all rocks to be used in the construction.

"No one could have predicted that the area where the cairn still stands is no longer at the center of what were semi-public buildings, the old Jefferson Firehouse and the former U. S. Forestry and later American Legion building. Many people pass by it every day on busy Route 32 near Jefferson Market, most not even noticing it. For the people who were involved in the effort and who attended the dedication ceremony in 1976, it maintains its proud treasured status of honor in the remembrance of all veterans. Many adults, small children in 1976, remember wandering their land to find the most 'perfect' of all rocks to be used in the construction. Inside the monument was placed a 'time capsule.' School children and others placed various articles inside to be preserved and rediscovered in the future.

"That future is now here. As part of the celebration of Jefferson's Bicentennial year, the Jefferson Historical Society will sponsor a brief 'Opening of the Cairn' ceremony on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28."


Robert M. Thorson, "History of Stone Walls," The Stone Wall Initiative (www.stonewall.uconn.edu, 2005)

"Abandoned stone walls in the woods of New England have a long and fascinating history. Before their recent rediscovery and before they began to tumble and decompose, the vast majority of stone walls had been built by early American farmers using stones that had heaved up from the subsoil after being buried for millennia by organic processes. All of this took place long after the stone had been glacially plucked from the bedrock and scattered over the landscape. The ice sheets responsible for distributing the boulders were merely scraping the surface of the hard, heavily fractured rocky crust of North America, which was created during the ancient episode of mountain building responsible for the Appalachians. The rock was made of minerals that were made from elements that were made from universal matter, that was captured by our solar system during formation of planet Earth. The story of stone walls begins with the beginning of everything, and ends with the present moment."


Charles McRaven, Stonework: Techniques and Projects (North Adams, MA, 1997)

"Why stone? Well, why not? For building or landscaping, you simply can't do better. Stone is weatherproof, raptor proof, insect proof, and long lived. Whether you use it in rustic or formal designs, it signifies good taste; a stone entryway, curving wall, arch, or path is quietly elegant and looks expensive. In this age of throwaways, stone is also psychologically appealing; it represents strength, stability, and permanence. It provides a sense of shelter and security and blessed simplicity when we're tired of flimsiness and confusion."

"Placing one stone atop another goes back as far as our dimmest beginnings, and there's still something elemental in our use of stone in any form today. The art and craft of masonry involve a kind of triumph over a hard, heavy, unyielding adversary. And once the rock is properly positioned, it's there, a monument for centuries. Stone cathedrals, medieval castles, and even ancient Roman arched bridges and aqueducts are still standing and will be around as long as anything we build today."

"Not everyone will be able to learn to do first-rate stonework. Some of my apprentices pick up the basic skills in a few days; others never do. One carpenter who wanted to learn stone worked with me for two years, and his last job was no better than his first. Stonework is not for everyone. But everyone can learn from handling stone: the discipline, the craft, the satisfaction that comes from artfully placing this substance. Even if you do not become a master mason, the rewards are still great. You are building for all time."

"Stones are all about time—time to find them, to move them, to place them, and time, occasionally, to chisel and shape them. And above all, time to see them, experience them, and fall under their spell."


Dan Snow, In the Company of Stone: The Art of the Stone Wall (New York, 2001)

"When now and again a stone falls into a place that is utterly inevitable, I feel I am suddenly standing under a shower of grace. For an instant I become inevitable, too. I share the compatibility that stone finds with stone. If I'm lucky, it happens a lot. Then again, some days it doesn't happen at all. Grace may fall in the next moment or never again. I know only that if I put myself with stone, it may happen again, so I keep on walling." (6)

"I am continually surprised and delighted by what the earth has to offer through the handling of its loose stone. Can you imagine anything in static form with greater variety than the stone scattered loosely over the earth? The sky is full of clouds of intense variety, but before we can take a second look at them they've changed. Stones keep their shapes for so long, I don't have to wonder how they may someday change. For the purposes of a waller, stone is immortal." (6)

"For me, part of the allure of walling is in making something from nothing. Collecting what has been overlooked or unappreciated and creating something useful with it feels like an alchemist's trick. To make the most of not much is the waller's magic." (17)

"I overhear stones in conversation; the clacks and clucks keep me apprised of what's going on under my hands but out of my sight. Sometimes I put in my own two cents' worth, but mostly I just listen in, and what I hear helps me raise the wall. I can catch and correct an unseen space lurking under a freshly set stone when I hear a hollow sound as the stone goes down. I know a stone is secure if it seats itself with the sound of a dead bolt lock being thrown. Walling is like being a tour guide for a group of people who speak a language I don't. I may not understand their conversation, but by their tones I can tell if I'm leading them where they want to go." (67)

"An individual stone is a solid object. Together, stones become a liquid medium and naturally flow into curved walls." (79)

"When the waller releases the stone, it is transformed from a stone into a piece of a wall. Only its having been let go, at that time, in that place, distinguishes it from all other stone." (80)

"Stones seem to want to congregate. In a stream they remain together when all else is washed away. On a mountain top they endure when everything else is blown away. Every piece finds its right relationship to every other." (91)

"While not exactly lighthearted, stone is playful; it hides its bumptious nature well. Within the volume of each stone is an immutable center, and from that point radiate all forces of movement. My attention is drawn to that spot; the truth of where the stone is headed is held there." (95)

"Every wall can tell a story about its maker once we understand the language that stone speaks. Every stone is visible proof of the builder's degree of contentment. A stone that looks satisfied with its position reflects the sense of ease the waller felt when placing it there." (100)


Susan Allport, Sermons in Stone: The Stone Walls of New England and New York (New York, 1990)

"For much of its existence, the well-built stone wall, like carefully constructed fencing of all kinds, was looked on as an index of a good and well-ordered settlement, a measure of a farmer's worth and capabilities. In the original 1828 edition of Noah Webster's dictionary, the definition for 'fence' noted that 'broken windows and poor fences are evidences of idleness or poverty or both.' Timothy Dwight, Yale University's itinerant president of the late eighteenth century, expressed the same commonly held opinion when he observed that 'a farm well surrounded and divided by good stone walls presents to my mind, irresistibly, the image of tidy, skillful, profitable agriculture, and promises to me within doors the still more agreeable prospect of plenty and prosperity'." (20)

"Every spring when the farmers of New England spiked their fields clear of stones and boulders, they had to wonder. Where had all these stones come from? Hadn't they picked the fields clean just last year? Wasn't the ground as smooth as butter when they plowed it last in the fall? Few of them could have understood the reason behind this spring crop of rock—that the freezing and thawing of groundwater works to heave up rocks from deep in the earth and that plowing itself accelerates this process—and some began to see the mysterious reappearance of stones in previously cleared fields as the work of the devil. It was he who placed them there to try to break their faith—and backs." (59)

"We used to have 'stone bees', when all the men of a village or hamlet came together with their draft of cattle and united to clear some patch of earth which had been stigmatized by nature with an undue visitation of stones and rocks. All this labor was gratuitously rendered, save only that the proprietor of the land furnished the grog. Such a meeting was always of course a very social and sociable affair. When the work was done, gymnastic exercises—such as hopping, wrestling, and foot-racing—took place among the athletic young men." (Samuel Griswold Goodrich, Recollections of a Lifetime (1856), cited on pp. 65–66)

"Never destroy any part of the strength of your wall for the sake of making it look handsome on a farm. In reality, those farm walls always look handsomest that stand best." (Asa Sheldon, Yankee Drover: Being the Unpretending Life of Asa Sheldon, Farmer, Trader, and Working Man, 1788–1870 (Woburn, 1862, cited in Allport, p. 117)


Lee May, "Fence Me In: New England's Stone Walls Are as Much Form as They are Function," USAirways Attaché (April 2004)

"Just as the garden takes on a different look each season, the stone wall that runs the width of my property changes with the weather, reflecting variations in temperature, light, precipitation.

"Ferns appear at the base rocks in spring, only slightly less green than the mossy patches on stones covered by shade and moisture. Lichen, orangish and gray-green, spatter parts of the wall, turning it into a palette catching the season's soft light.

"Come October, when the light hardens and sharpens and angles just right, the wall lights up, a long line of gray and brown and black chunks earthbound no more.

"Like super-sized cupcakes topped with puffy icing, the snowcapped stones hail winter, mouthwateringly, delighting the eye, feeding the soul.

"And in every season, the touch of a stone wall, rough, smooth, edgy, communicates power, mystery, stability. Far from static, the wall grows as a living feature on the land, completing trees, shrubs, providing movement to the garden as chipmunks scamper through and across the rocks (time spent running the wall is time they can't spend digging up my plants.

"And, like the pleasure that gardeners feel the first time a collection of plants starts to look like a garden, the joy of seeing a wall grow comfortable on the land is great. And hard won: Herding rocks is some of the most back-aching gardening I've ever done. And some of the most satisfying...

"Many came bearing cheer and good wishes, but no one offered to help [me] lift rocks. And that was as it should be. Friends, especially those who have built walls, will provide muscle only if asked, because they understand a fellow wall man's need to do as much pushing, pulling, flipping, rolling, and lifting as possible. We want to be able to say, 'I did that'. With the help of some big rocks from my friends.

"When my work was done, I understood that while wall-building is physically demanding, requiring a lot of patience and a bit of common sense about weight and balance, it isn't brain surgery. With unhurried steadiness, the least handy and crafty among us can do this and reap a fine harvest, even from a crooked, modest wall like mine. Wall-making inspires contemplation, and it's oddly soothing, connecting us to ageless rock and timeless labor...

"Finding rocks that would fit together and stay together sometimes required trial and error, much like the efforts of people looking for a love match. Occasionally, a little chipping or hammering might have made the job easier, but I was determined to get natural fits."


Dave Goulder, Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain, as quoted in the Lincoln County News (ME), (September 22, 2005)

"In the UK, you find dry stonewalls wherever you find stone. Built of anything that can be made to stand, they appear in a variety of styles usually dictated by the type of stone dominant in the particular locality."


John Vivian, Building Stone Walls, Second Edition (Pownal, VT, 1978)

"If you stop and think about it, it seems that, written word aside, the most enduring monuments to man's creativity and hard work are built of stone." (1)

"There is no such thing as a half-built stone wall. It's either a wall or a stone pile." (2)

"In some areas, of course, there is little or no exposed rock. In many of the Plains States, you will have to go to a river valley or excavated quarry to find stone. In the Florida Keys, I've seen dandy walls made from coral chunks. And in parts of the Southwest, folks have to make their own—soil, straw, and water packed in molds and dried in the sun to adobe. It all makes a good wall." (12)

"Each spring I patrol our walls that range in age from 200 to 2 years of age, replacing stones knocked off by weather or visitors. You get to know your walls this way, get to know the good and bad points of construction, too, as the same fault crops up in the bad sections year after year." (76)

"Stone walls, wildlife, and the natural landscape go together. Unlike other forms of "fencing," stone walls lend a sense of harmony to the land. As such structures "age," lichens and mosses decorate the stone in a mosaic of subtle greens and grays. Vines climb over the wall, anchoring their tendrils in the multitude of interstices. Trees and shrubs invade, the wall's foundation adding vertical dimension to the horizontal traverse. As the wall ages with its succession of plant growth, many birds and animals take up residence amid the rocks and niches of the invading vegetation." (78)


Lawrence Biemiller, "A Time to Cast Away Stones," The Chronicle of Higher Education (September 20, 2002)

"You could say that the small block of gray granite on the floor in front of Don Borkowski's desk is an abstract of the very big problem with Bowdoin College's 150-year-old chapel. Fixing the problem, Bowdoin officials figure, will take two more years and at least $6 million – roughly 130 times the original cost of the building, which was designed by the renowned architect Richard Upjohn. The stone block is perhaps eight inches square on its face, behind which it tapers to a squat wedge. It was removed from one of the chapel's two stark German Romanesque towers, which soar 120 feet above the midpoint of Bowdoin's quad. Like its neighbors, the granite block is merely a facing stone, not a load-bearing one. It was secured to the tower's fieldstone inner structure by an eight-inch-deep mix of mortar, tailings, and rubble – what Mr. Borkowski, who is the college's capital-projects manager, now refers to as an 'interstitial layer'... 'Primarily from the belfry level down, there is water infiltration', Mr. Borkowski says. 'After 100 years of freeze-thaw cycles, that interstitial layer has turned to sand'. The granite blocks, no longer supported from behind, are bulging out of settling awkwardly, and many have cracked .... Core samples of the towers' fieldstone inner walls suggest that they are in good shape."


Ian Cramb, The Art of the Stonemason (Cincinnati, 2002)

"No drawing can give you the positions of stones on the wall in rubble work. The shapes and sizes of the individual stones selected determine their positions on the wall. You must try to imagine what they will look like; this is part of the secret of doing random rubble."

"When you look at the first few square feet of complete wall, it almost never looks right. But do not let this put you off. I get the same feeling. It will look better as you progress."

"Nothing is impossible in building stone, if only you know how. It has all been done before."


Stephen Mansfield, Japanese Stone Gardens: Origins, Meaning, Form (North Clarendon, VT, 2009)

"In this ancient pre-Buddhist world, stones were not gods in themselves but the vectors through which the gods could be reached and petitioned. In order to worship stones acting as magnetic fields for the gods, a purified clearing was made around the boulders... Though these sites cannot strictly be called gardens, the deliberate grouping of stones in an esthetically pleasing and spiritually meaningful arrangement may be considered another prototype for the Japanese garden and its concept of a natural order.

"The importance of stone and water in the gardens of the Heian era was based on more than just creating pleasing arrangements. Stone setting became part of a scheme to promote good fortune or as preventive measures devised to forestall catastrophes. In order to deter calamities, readers of the Sakutei-ki are exhorted to heed taboos regarding the position of upright stones representing mountains, which have the power to either enhance or impede the flow of ki (life energy).

"Successful stone arrangements seem almost alive, the elements conversing among themselves with an occult vitality, the call and response that have been noted between well-placed rocks resembling the changing of Buddhist sutras. The idea of the garden designer initiating a dialogue with the elements of the garden is a singularly Japanese approach, probably predating the Shakutei-ki, one which urges the reader to 'follow the request' of each stone. A dominant stone will begin this orchestration, the other rocks complying it is 'requesting' mood.

"Close to his own death, Shigemori reached out to the divine in the creation of this garden [Funda-In, which he restored in 1939], stating that 'To set stones for an iwakura, the garden designer must acquire an identical mentality to the gods... What this is about is how close a garden maker can get to the gods, and how pure his mind can become'."


Judith Robbins, "My Retinue," The North End (privately published)

"Raise up the story of your grave past
from beneath the stone foundation
of your first house

"Where blocked in living cement
you lived like an anchoress
attached to a church

"closed in and fed
by an unseen hand
through an opening in the wall.

"You survived the enclosure
until the iconoclast of your own desire
dismantled that wall

"stone by stone
and you stepped forth
finding yourself full grown.

"From stones of stories set aside
build a foundation for another house,
where I will come and keep you, my retinue."


Joachim du Bellay (1522-1560), "La nostalgie: Regrets du village natal"

"Heureux qui, comme Ulysse, a fait un beau voyage,
Ou comme celui-la qui conquit la toison,
Et puis est retourné, plein d'usage et raison,
Vivre entre ses parents le reste de son age!

"Quand reverrai-je, hélas, de mon petit village
Fumer la cheminée, et en quelle saison
Reverrai-je le clos de ma pauvre maison,
Qui m'est une province, et beaucoup davantage?

"Plus me plaît le séjour qu'ont bâti mes aïeux,
Que des palais romains le front audacieux:
Plus que le marbre dur me plaît l'ardoise fine,
Plus mon Loire gaulois que le Tibre latin,
Plus mon petit Lire que le mont Palatin,
Et plus que l'air marin la douceur angevine."


Charles Long, The Stonebuilder's Primer: A Step-by-Step Guide for Owner-Builders (Buffalo, NY, 1998)

"Fieldstone is just that. It is scattered like flotsam through fields and wasteland—wherever the bedrock is close enough to the surface to yield up chunks. Weather and plowing churn these pieces to the surface, and farmers drag them away to dump along the fences or pile them on an otherwise useless piece of land. In this part of the world, finding fieldstone is easy." (58–59)

"The better class of buildings showed an obvious preference for quarry stone, and the implications of the choice bothered me for a very long time. I was almost convinced that fieldstone must have some secret inherent weakness—from too much inbreeding or living too long in the open. Almost. Then I took a walk one day and found myself behind these beautiful houses of quarried stone. Lo and behold, the backs of these pretentious petrified ladies were made of the ubiquitous fieldstone, very bit as knobbly and misshapen as mine. Only the fronts and corners were quarried. And to my untutored eye, the rough-cast backs were even more beautiful than the fronts—at least one wouldn't mistake the fieldstone backs for precast concrete blocks. Modern builders, too, have a peculiar aversion to the humble stones beneath their feet. For some reason, contractors prefer to treat fieldstone as a hindrance. It is bulldozed aside and carted away, and then the house is built on cement blocks (which are later faced with factory imitations of fieldstone)." (58)

"Even the most humble buildings were sometimes raised on a bed of carefully chosen stones. We moved the old privy last year and discovered four prize cornerstones under it...At times, the ground beside an old stone ruin can be as fruitful as the structure itself. Masons, amateurs, and professionals, left a litter of rejected and excess stones as they worked. The mess was often left where it lay at the end of a job." (59)


"Oldest Highway Linked Egyptian Quarry, Routes to Monuments,"Los Angeles Times (May 8, 1994)

"American researchers have discovered what they say is the world's oldest paved road: a 4,600-year-old highway that linked a basalt quarry in a desolate, deserted region of the Egyptian desert to waterways that carried basalt blocks to monument sites along the Nile .... The road was constructed with flagstones, large slabs of stone that were laid on the sand without any surface preparation. The nature of the stones varies according to location on the road. 'It's clear they just used whatever was handy' (geologist Thomas Bown of the U. S. Geological Survey in Denver)."


Stephen S. Hall, "Spirits in the Sand: The Ancient Nasca Lines of Peru Shed Their Secrets," National Geographic (March 2010)

"Since they became widely known in the late 1920s, when commercial air travel was introduced between Lima and the southern Peruvian city of Arequipa, the mysterious desert drawings known as the Nasca lines have puzzled archaeologists, anthropologists, and anyone fascinated by ancient cultures in the Americas...

"The Peru-German archaeological initiative has explored the region from the Pacific coast to altitudes of nearly 15,000 feet in the Andean highlands. Almost everywhere they have looked they have found evidence of Nasca villages – 'like pearls in the valley margins', says [Markus] Reindel [of the German Archaeological Institute]. 'And near every settlement we find geoglyphs'. The parched desert and hillsides made an inviting canvas: By simply removing a layer of dark stones cluttering the ground, exposing the lighter sand beneath, the Nasca created markings that have endured for centuries in the dry climate. Archaeologists believe both the construction and maintenance of the lines were communal activities – 'like building a cathedral', says Reindel."


Bruce Bower, "The Stone Masters: Toolmakers at Work and Children at Play Reflect Ancient Technology," (April 12, 2003)

"In the Indonesian island village of Langda, located on Irian Jaya near its border with Papua New Guinea, a half-dozen men sit in an open space, chipping fragments out of rocks. It's not rocket science, but it's a veritable rock science still practiced by a handful of groups around the world. The men are making double-edged stone blades for adzes, scythe-like tools with wooden handles that the Langda have traditionally used to clear land and to work wood. Several of the men show great dexterity in shaping stones into implements, a process known as stone or flint knapping. Each man holds a grapefruit-size stone in his right hand that he uses as a hammer to strike a rock braced against a piece of driftwood with his left hand. Dietrich Stout, an anthropology graduate student at Indiana University in Bloomington, sits among the men .... The men's work is going well. One craftsman proclaims his joy by crying out the name of a mythical figure revered as the provider of adze-worthy stone. A second man smiles and describes the stone strips, or flakes, that he's pounding for a blade as 'peeling off like sweet potato skin'. A third experienced adze maker talks excitedly of wanting to slice flakes off 'every stone in the river' .... Experts first homed in on the best ridges jutting out from a stone from which to strike flakes and then wielded their hammers with remarkable precision and deftness. This is not just a job to the craftsmen. They see it as a social bond with their environment in which they nurture an ongoing relationship with living stones, Stout notes. In traditional societies, practical knowledge about plants, thunderstorms, and other features of the natural world commonly includes an assumption that these objects and events are alive. For instance, knappers take care not to anger pieces of stone through practices deemed to be improper or careless, such as failing to place finished blades parallel on the ground, with sharp points facing away from the worker. Langda adze makers also emphasize their social links to dead and mythical ancestors who they say handed town their craft through generations. Like Langda stone workers, Stone Age toolmakers may also have consisted of experts and apprentices, Stout says. For instance, it must have required years of practice to become adept at making the teardrop-shaped hand axes of the so-called Acheulian tradition, which flourished around 500,000 years ago .... As early as 8 million years ago, human ancestors must have used unmodified stones as tools. Later, groups began chipping edges on stones and leaving them behind in communal workspaces .... Intriguingly, several 2.5-million-to-2.3-million-year-old African sites have yielded stone artifacts that exhibit signs of sophisticated knapping techniques and tool-making styles adapted to local rock characteristics, according to Erella Hovers of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Hovers takes this as evidence that early tool makers responded to whatever material they had to work with, rather than making do with a generic approach."


Bruce Bower, "Aping the Stone Age: Chimp Chasers join Artifact Extractors to Probe the Roots of Stone Tools," Science News (November 21, 2009)

"For chimpanzees living in a forest surrounding the village of Bossou in Guinea, cracking nuts is a serious task with important steps. They are: first, lug large rocks to a spot near a nut-bearing tree, such as an oil palm. Next, gather the nuts and place them on the rocks. Then, obtain a smaller, graspable rock. Finally, smash the armored treats and let the shells fly. As clutches of apes pound away with devastating precision, these nut bashers create an unholy din akin to a human rock band... A team led by anthropologist Susana Carvalho set up a nut-cracking lab in the forest near Bossou by placing seven piles of nuts and several dozen stones of various sizes, shapes and types inside a clearing. Over five field seasons, 14 of 7 chimps that regularly visited the clearing consistently reused the same pairs of stones... Carvalho suspects that watching to Bossou chimps at work will provide clues to the origins of the Stone Age, the 2.6 million years during which members of the human evolutionary family are known to have used and made stone tools of increasing complexity. She is one researcher participating in a scientific movement to merge strains of archaeology, anthropology, primatology and psychology into a hybrid field dubbed primate archaeology: the study of current and past material culture among apes and perhaps other nonhuman animals... Three excavations in Taï National Park in Ivory Coast yielded more than 200 stone pounding implements that chimps used to crack nuts at least 4,300 years ago... This discovery raised questions about how far back in time chimps began to use stones as pounding tools and whether there is any way to distinguish prehistoric chimp implements from those of ancient hominids..."


Bruce Bower, "Monkeys Pick the Right Rock: Wild Capuchins May Plan to Use Most Effective Tool," Science News, February 14, 2009

"Wild capuchin monkeys don't thoughtlessly grab any handy piece of stone to crack open hard-shelled nuts at snack time. These agile primates select the best tool for the job, a new study finds.

"Capuchins make mental plans for fracturing a particular nut before selecting an appropriate stone for the task, says primatologist Elisabetta Visalberghi of the Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies in Rome and her colleagues. These monkeys draw on knowledge about a variety of stones and nuts to select suitable nut-cracking implements, the scientists report in a study published online January 15 in Current Biology.

"'The present findings make capuchins a compelling model to track the evolutionary roots of stone-tool use', Visalberghi says. Because capuchins last shared a common ancestor with humans about 35 million years ago, the scientists write, the capacity for stone-tool use evolved earlier than thought.

"In Visalberghi's study, wild monkeys in Brazil individually approached two or three stones that differed in hardness, size, or weight. One stone was best for cracking nearby palm nuts. In nearly every case, animals chose the superior stone.

"Primatologist Frans de Waal of Emory University in Atlanta interprets the findings differently. The work underscores wild capuchins' proficiency at trial-and-error learning, and planning need not have contributed to the animals' tool preferences, he says. Having spent their lives learning to associate certain types of stones with nut-cracking success and others with failure, monkeys in the new study might have automatically applied that knowledge, he suggests."


William R. Corliss, Ancient Infrastructure: Remarkable Roads, Mines, Walls, Mounds, Stone Circles. A Catalog of Archaeological Anomalies (Glen Arm, MD, 1999)

"From the megalithic age to the present day, humans have gathered stones and arranged them in rows, circles, and other patterns. This activity seems to be the way some people try to impress and influence other people and, probably more importantly, their god or gods. Most artificially structures built up out of rough stones seem to be designed for rituals, ceremonies, burials, commemoration, vision quests by individuals, shamanism, and astronomy. The most important and controversial kinds of anomalies associated with stone arrangements are as follows:

1. The stone structures suggest mathematical, scientific, and engineering sophistication well beyond that usually assigned to the culture involved. Example: Eclipse prediction by the megalith builders.

2. The trans-ocean diffusion of Old World culture to the New World long before the Viking contacts.

3. The organization of societies and infrastructures beyond the level considered reasonable for the involved cultures. Examples: the great megalithic complexes at Dartmoor, Carnac, and the whole region around Stonehenge.

4. Claims of unusual physical phenomena at megalithic sites. Example: Magnetic and ultrasound anomalies.

5. Claims of unusual psychic phenomena at megalithic sites. Example: The dowsing of 'energy' patterns.

"Beyond this list, we generalize that we do not really appreciate why the megalithic peoples quarried, transported, and erected all those huge stones. The same can be said for the North American Indians' stone mazes, meanders, medicine wheels, and geoglyphs, all built from multitudes of relatively small stones. But then, modern humans have their great cathedrals, Mount Rushmore, and scores of monuments commemorating George Washington."


Matt Schudel, "Stonemason Took his Craft to Great Heights," Washington Post, (May 2, 2010)

"On September 29, 1990, as President George H. W. Bush looked up from below, the final stone was set in place atop Washington national Cathedral. The intricately carved finial stone, weighing 1,008 pounds, was lifted by a crane to the cathedral's southwest tower, the finishing touch on a building that was begun 83 years earlier, to the day. The man on the ground who secured that last stone in the crane's sling and sent it heavenward was Peter Cleland, the cathedral's master stonemason. For 18 years, he had supervised construction of the sixth-largest cathedral in the world… Mr. Cleland led a small crew, seldom numbering more than 18, that at various times included his son and all four of his grandsons. In the heavy, exacting work of building in stone, he followed one guiding principle: 'Take it slow, and get it right.' Only when the final stone was put in place could Mr. Cleland pronounce his job complete. 'It's the jewel in the Lord's crown', he said. Two kinds of stone craftsmen worked at the cathedral during its long construction. Stone carvers… The other stone workers are the masons, who, in [colleague] Alonso's words, 'are the ones who put it all together'. Their tools are simple and timeless: trowels, levels, squares and mallets covered in rawhide. 'Those tools have remained unchanged for hundreds and hundreds of years', Alonso said… At one point, he discovered that one tower was half an inch higher than another. Structural anomalies are common in big buildings, but Mr. Cleland was not satisfied. He added a tiny bit of mortar to several courses, or layers, of stone until the two towers were perfectly even. 'In the old days when they were building the cathedrals in Europe', he said in 1988, 'the thing that mattered most to the craftsmen was the quality of their craftsmanship because that was how they did glory to God. That's the way I like the men here to feel, and I think they do'."


The Bible

"And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out." (Luke, 19:27-40)

"And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that be began to build the house of the Lord… And the house, when it was in the building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building… Solomon made also an house for Pharaoh's daughter, whom he had taken to wife, like unto this porch. All these were of costly stones, according to the measures of hewed stones, sawed with saws, within and without, even from the foundation unto the coping, and so on the outside toward the great court. And the foundation was of costly stones, even great stones, stones of 10 cubits and stones of eight cubits. And above were costly stones, after the measures of hewed stones, and cedars. And the great court round about was with three rows of hewed stones, and a row of cedar beams, both for the inner court of the house of the Lord, and for the porch of the house." (I Kings 6:1-7:12)

"Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: He that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: And the hail shall sweep away the refuse of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it." (Isaiah 28:16-18)

"Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speaking, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called out of darkness into his marvelous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, now have obtained mercy." (I Peter 2:1-10)

"Jesus saith unto them, did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet." (Matthew 22:42-46)

"Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words; Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." (Isaiah 58:9-14)

"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?
I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.
He hath made very thing beautiful in his time: Also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end." (Ecclesiastes, 3:1–11)

"And Laban answered and said unto Jacob, These daughters are my daughters, and these children are my children, and these cattle are my cattle, and all that thou seest is mine: and what can I do this day unto these my daughters, or unto their children which they have born? Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee. And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar. And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stone; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap." (Genesis 31:43–46)

"And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: For if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou has polluted it." (Exodus 20:25)

"Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. When he had reached a certain place, he stopped there for the night, since the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of that place, he made it his pillow and lay down where he was. He had a dream: There was a ladder planted on the ground with its top reaching to heaven; and God's angels were going up and down on it. And there was Yahweh, standing beside him and saying, 'I, Yahweh, am the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac. The ground on which you are lying I shall give to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as plentiful as the dust on the ground; you will spread out to west and east, to north and south, and all clans on earth will bless themselves by you and your descendants. Be sure, I am with you; I shall keep you safe wherever you go, and bring you back to this country, for I shall never desert you, until I have done what I have promised you'. Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, 'Truly, Yahweh is in this place I did not know!' He was afraid and said, 'How awe-inspiring this place is! This is nothing less than the abode of God, and this is the gate of heaven!' Early next morning, Jacob took the stone he had used for his pillow, and set it up as a pillar, pouring oil over the top of it. He named the place Bethel, but before that the town had been called Luz. Jacob then made this vow, 'If God remains with me and keeps me safe on this journey I am making, if he gives me food to eat and clothes to wear, and if I come home safe to my father's home, then Yahweh shall be my God. This stone I have set up as a pillar to be a house of God, and I shall faithfully pay you a tenth part of everything you gave me'." (Genesis 28:10-22)

"So we built the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: For the people had a mind to work." (Nehemiah, 4:6)

"At destruction and famine thou shalt laugh: neither shalt thou be afraid of the beasts of the earth. For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field: and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee. And thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace; and thou shalt visit thy habitation and shalt not sin." (Job 5:21–24)

"Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place." (Isaiah 28:16–17)

"The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in his eyes." (Psalm 118:22–23)

"Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood: That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a place; That our garners may be full, affording all manner of store: that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets: That our oxen may be strong to labor; that there be no breaking in, nor going out; that there by no complaining in our streets. Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord." (Psalm 144:11–15)

"And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God." (Luke 4:3–4)

"Jesus left the Temple, and as he was going away his disciples came up to draw his attention to the Temple buildings. He said to them in reply, 'You see all these? In truth I tell you, not a single stone here will be left on another: Everything will be pulled down'. And while he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came and asked him when they were by themselves, 'Tell us, when is this going to happen, and what sign will there be of your coming and of the end of the world?'" (Matthew 24:1–8)

"But Jesus, again crying out in a loud voice, yielded up his spirit. At that, the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked; the rocks were split; the tombs opened and the bodies of many holy men rose from the dead, and these, after his resurrection, came out of the tombs, entered the Holy City and appeared to a number of people. Meanwhile, the centurion, together with the others guarding Jesus, had seen the earthquake and all that was taking place, and they were terrified and said, 'In truth this was a son of God'." (Matthew 27:50–54)

"So Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean shroud, and put it in his own new tomb which he had hewn out of rock. He then rolled a large stone across the entrance of the tomb and went away... Next day... the chief priest and the Pharisees went in a body to Pilate and said to him, 'Your Excellency, we recall that this impostor said, while he was still alive, "After three days I shall rise again"... "You may have your guard', said Pilate to them. 'Go and make all as secure as you know how'. So they went and made the sepulcher secure, putting seals on the stone and mounting a guard... After the Sabbath, and towards dawn on the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala and the other Mary went to visit the sepulcher. And all at once there was a violent earthquake, for the angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled away the stone and sat on it. His face was like lightning, his robe white as snow. The guards were so shaken, so frightened of him that they were like dead men." (Matthew, 27:59–60, 62-66; 28:1–4)

"And Pilate marveled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulcher which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulcher. And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid. And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, and Salome had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulcher? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: For it was very great. And entering into the sepulcher, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted; ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: Behold the place where they laid him." (Mark, 15:44–47, 16:1–6)

"For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you. Wherefore, laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be, ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious; and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe, he is precious: But unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy." (I Peter 1, 24–25; 2, 1–10)


Roger Caillois, Pierres (Paris, Gallimard, 1966)

"Je parle de pierres qui ont toujours couché dehors ou qui dorme dans leur gîte et la nuit des filons: Elles n'intéressent ni l'archéologue ni l'artiste ni le diamantaire. Personne n'en fit des palais, des statues, des bijoux; ou des digues, des remparts, des tombeaux. Elles ne sont ni utiles ni renommées. Leurs facettes ne brillent sur aucun anneau; sur aucun diadème. Elles ne publient pas, gravés en caractères ineffaçables, des listes de victoires, des lois d'Empire. Ni bornes ni stèles, pourtant exposées aux intempéries, mais sans honneur ni révérence, elles n'attestent qu'elles.

"L'architecture, la sculpture, la glyptique, la mosaïque, la joaillerie n'en ont rien fait. Elles sont du début de la planète, parfois venues d'une autre étoile. Elles portent alors sur elles la torsion de l'espace comme le stigmate de leur terrible chute. Elles sont d'avant l'homme; et l'homme, quand il est venu, ne les a pas marqués de l'empreinte de son art ou de son industrie. Il ne les a pas manufacturées, les destinant à quel usage trivial, luxueux ou historique: Elles ne perpétuent que leur propre mémoire.

"Elle ne sont taillées à l'effigie de personne, ni homme ni bête ni fable. Elles n'ont connu d'outils que ceux qui servaient à les révéler: le marteau à cliver, pour manifester leur géométrie latente, la meule à polir pour montrer leur grain ou pour réveiller leurs couleurs éteintes. Elles sont demeurées ce qu'elles étaient, parfois plus fraîches et plus lisibles, mais toujours dans leur vérité: elles-mêmes et rien d'autre.

"Je parle des pierres que rien n'altéra jamais que la violence des sévices tectoniques et la lente usure qui commença avec le temps, avec elles. Je parle des gemmes avant la taille, des pépites avant la fonte, du gel profond des cristaux avant l'intervention du lapidaire.

"Je parle des pierres: algébre, vertige et ordre; des pierres, hymnes et quinconces; des pierres, dards et corolles, orée du songe, ferment et image; de telle pierre pan de chevelure opaque et raide comme méche de noyée, mais qui ne ruisselle sur aucune tempe, là où dans un canal bleu devient plus visible et plus vulnérable une sève; de telles pierres papier défroissé, incombustible et saupoudré d'étincelles incertaines; ou vase le plus étanche où danse et prend encore son niveau derrière les seules parois absolues un liquide d'avant l'eau et qu'il fallut, pour préserver un cumul de miracles.

"Je parle des pierres plus âgées que la vie et qui demeurent après elle sur les planètes refroidies, quand elle eut la fortune d'y éclore. Je parle des pierres qui n'ont même pas à attendre la mort et qui n'ont rien à faire que laisser glisser sur leur surface le sable, l'averse ou le ressac, la tempête, le temps.

"L'homme leur envie la durée, la dureté, l'intransigeance et l'éclat, d'être lisses et impénétrables, et entières même brisées. Elles sont le feu et l'eau dans la même transparence immortelle, visitée parfois de l'iris et parfois d'une buée. Elles lui apportent, qui tiennent dans sa paume, la pureté, le froid et la distance des astres, plusieurs sérénités.

"Comme qui, parlant des fleurs, laisserait de côté aussi bien la botanique que l'art des jardins et celui des bouquets – et il lui resterait encore beaucoup dire –, ainsi, à mon tour, négligeant la minéralogie, écartant les arts qui des pierres font usage, je parle des pierres nues, fascination et gloire, où se dissimule et en même temps se livre un mystère plus lent, plus vaste et plus grave que le destin d'une espèce passagère." (Dédicace, janvier 1966, pp. 7–9)

"De nos jours, on peut acheter dans les magasins de Pékin et des grandes villes de la Chine et aussi du Japon des pierres aux formes élégantes, aux courbes harmonieuses, installées sur des socles ouvragées faits à leur mesure. Elles sont l'équivalent d'objets d'art et peuvent atteindre de grands prix. Au XVIIe siècle, Tch'en Ki-jou énumère dans son traité des Vertueux Divertissements les conditions favorables à l'appréciation de la peinture. Il note parmi elles: 'Être entouré de pierres rares'. Sur de nombreux tableaux de l'époque Song, qui représentent des jardins ou des terrasses de palais, on voit de hautes roches déchiquetées, apportées là et dressées comme ornement suprême de la demeure. Le dernier des Song du Nord rassembla de nombreuses pierres dans un jardin cosmique. Ce parc passait pour un diagramme complet de l'univers visible et invisible.

"Les amateurs de pierres étranges étaient alors nombreux et célèbres. Après dix siècles, il en demeure d'illustres. Divers manuels appelés che-p'ou servaient alors à guider leur quête. Le mieux renseigné d'entre eux est probablement le Yun-lin che-p'ou, "Catalogue des Pierres de la Forêt Nuageuse" de Tou Wan, qui décrit les minéraux les plus recherchés en précisant leur lieu d'origine et leurs caractères remarquables. Tou Wan descendait du célèbre poète Tou Fou. Il écrivit son répertoire en 1126 pour le bénéfice des connaisseurs. Il voyageait beaucoup, afin de se procurer des pierres rares. Il raconte comment il les acquérait. Pour le choix des meilleurs échantillons, il recommande les critères suivants, je suppose par ordre d'importance croissante: bizarre (i), insolite (ch'i), fantastique (kuai). Il montre une préférence pour les pierres veinées ou perforées. Son ouvrage signale en outre que Li Tõ-yu (787-849) rassemblait déjà les pierres insolites et les arbres rares du monde entier dans son domaine de P'ing-ts'iuan. Il voulait lui donner l'apparence d'une demeure d'Immortels.

"Les riches se ruinent pour une belle pierre. Le Chankou rapporte que le préfet de Siang-Kiang dépensa dix milles pièces d'or pour sa collection. Le Ts'ing-yi lou de T'ao Kou perpétue la mémoire du Censeur Général Souen Tch'eng-yeou. Il était si riche qu'il aurait pu renverser la dynastie. Il acquit pour mille pièces d'or une pierre unique de malachite ou de jaspe vert, que ses aspérités faisaient ressembler à une montagne. Les pièces recherchées doivent en effet ressembler à des montagnes ou à des grottes. Ce sont des sites magiques, des refuges que l'on décrit volontiers éclairés simultanément par le soleil et par la lune. 'On n'y trouve rien de vulgaire. Les oiseaux répondent à l'appel des hommes, les fleurs accueillent les visiteurs'. Ce sont des mondes complets et étanches. En outre, sur un grand plateau, un échiquier et les pièces du jeu attendent les Véritables. (On reconnaît les séjours d'Immortels à la présence d'un jeu d'échecs naturel.)" ("Une idée de l'immortalité," pp. 77–79)

"Vers l'année 1100, le gouverneur de la province de Wou-Wei était Mi Fou, appelé aussi Mi Nan-Kong, grand amateur de peinture et de calligraphie, critique d'art, peintre et calligraphe lui-même. Comme beaucoup de lettrés de son temps, il aimait et admirait les pierres étranges. Un jour, il se revêtit de sa robe de cérémonie pour saluer une roche dressée dans sa résidence. Il s'inclina devant elle et l'appela 'Frére aîné'. L'extravagance pouvait passer pour sacrilège. On la commenta beaucoup et elle parvint aux oreilles d'un censeur impérial; qui fit rapport sur elle. Les Annales des Song conservent l'anecdote. Selon d'autres textes, l'administrateur excentrique fut destitué. Ma pusillanimité m'aurait sans doute empêché de me livrer à cette manifestation quelque peu provocatrice, mais je ressens pour les pierres la même révérence que le lointain Chinois." ("Soleils inscrits," p. 101)

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