"Finding stone, choosing it, and letting go of it are the three things a waller does. I'd miss any one of them too much if I asked someone else to do them for me. I may work by myself, but I'm not alone. I'm in the company of stone."
Glancing through the remainders or bargain books at a favorite bookstore, Politics and Prose, this week, I discovered a fascinating book that I would never have purposely sought out for myself. In the Company of Stone: The Art of the Stone Wall by and about Daniel Snow with photographs by Peter Mauss is the continuing story of one man's endeavors to build with stones alone without the modern adhesives and fasteners that most of us have become so reliant upon for a great varieties of use. One of only a handful of Americans certified by the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain, Snow builds walls, wells, terraces, caverns, and a variety of other structures with well-honed ancient skills that seem both quaint and daunting. Both prose and images in this book have a certain poetry about them while clearly conveying the nuts and bolts of a most practical matter. I stood there looking at this book for twenty minutes without realizing that more than a few minutes had elapsed. It is that compelling.
I must also admit that part of my attraction to this particular publication has much to do with my own family history. My grandfather was an outstanding craftsmen (with wood), and he instilled in all of us a love for creating things. Sometimes I find it sad that as a culture we produce so little really fine, simple and natural products of ourselves. Even as I sit here typing this, I question myself about what I truly create anymore. Not my more frivolous creations of domesticity but things with real and lasting permanence. Do our words, intangible as they are, count as a type of creation or are they lost out their in a digital deluge where everyone is permitted a voice? Is importance about quality or intention in this regard? But enough... This is a charming book that may have some of you of a like mind craving the things you see for your own life, pondering how you might afford to rip down that chain link or plastic composite outside and construct one of these wonders.