Monday, August 21, 2017
Yoga places a lot of importance on the breath – so too, in wall construction. While stones themselves don’t inhale or exhale, walls – (especially retaining walls) actually need to be able to breathe.
A stone wall made with cement or concrete can’t breathe. It can’t move. Any moisture trapped behind it in the soil can’t get out. Eventually it will tip and crack and start to fall over.
But a well built dry laid stone wall can expand and contract slightly, like a basket, and in a very real sense ‘breathes’ to accommodate changes in temperature and hydrostatic movement in the soil.
Sunday, August 20, 2017
Directing full attention to our inhaling and exhaling is the life and breath of yoga teaching. We are encouraged to focus on our breathing pattern and visualize the new life-giving air entering our lungs – replenishing our whole body, and then direct our consciousness to the releasing of it, as we breath out.
It's kind of funny being reminded, as we sit or stand in our various yoga poses, to not forget to breathe. But I get it. Sometimes it's like we do forget.
Being who I am, I wonder about stones, too. They have been sitting so still for so long, don't they need to be reminded to take a breath?
It may well be that they are all collectively and continuously in that timeless moment between exhaling and inhaling – in a state of complete release. They don't need to take a breath. Their 'solidity' is the clue that they no longer need to take anything in. They are consciousness. That elusive thing we call 'wholeness' has been attained. They manifest in their being what total 'mindfulness' looks like.
Saturday, August 19, 2017
Friday, August 18, 2017
Yoga blocks facilitate the perfect transition from the discipline of yoga into the ancient art of dry stone walling. In this more advanced exercise, yoga blocks are stacked and aligned diagonally in the wall, while the back and legs are kept perfectly straight.
After the block installation is completed, the 'waller pose' (second position) is assumed.
Thursday, August 17, 2017
Yesterday I was splitting lots of freshly dredged glacial granite retrieved from the bottom of the quarry pond. We had loaded them all into our truck last week. They look a lot like clams when they open.
As I'm hammering on the chisel, tracing a line along the hard surface, I can feel whether the energy of the blow is connecting solidly all the way through the full density of the stone.
The times the stone doesn't make a generous 'thunk' sound, and the chisel just bounces limply back, producing only pulverized surface dust, I know I've had little effect on the stone. But when stone, chisel, hammer and I 'connect', there is the sure knowledge that with a few more similar hits my roly poly little friend will dramatically snap apart into two new friends.
In dry stone construction, when I'm coming up to wall height, split half-round chunks are easier to build with than their former bulbous selves. In their spiffy altered state they are happy to now be set somewhere along the wall. The burden of their awkward roundness has been lifted from them.
Many many years ago they started out as great noble slabs of bedrock. When the glaciers came and broke off sharp chunks, it took eons of time to wear the chunks into smooth round balls. I feel pleased with my morning's work. I am making round stones flat again.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
'Yin' yoga, as one might guess, is the other part of 'yang yoga'. It involves getting into more passive poses and holding the positions longer. Many of the poses require a wall to lean on. I'm all for walls.
Leaning is good too. Things would fail and eventially fall down if they didn't lean on each other. The stones on both sides of a dry stone wall are usually placed so that they lean into and touch each other and so counterbalance each other and thereby maximize their stability.
We can all learn things from walls too, especially stone ones. Like how to be still for long periods of time. How to be quiet and learn to wait. Leaning up against a tight wall we can meditate on what 'fitness' really is. My guess is that the stones in a well built wall are probably much better in touch with each other than we are with our own bodies.
They say a yoga pose like this one with the legs straight up against the wall is good for loosening tense muscles, helping with back problems and aches & pains from over working the body. I'm in a position to find out .
Sunday, August 13, 2017
Saturday, August 12, 2017
Major step forward in Doon Fort conservation
By Siobhan McNamara 13:39 Friday 11th of August 2017
Ministerial consent has been granted for the removal of ivy from the historic Doon Fort near Portnoo in Ireland.
This is a major step forward in the preservation and restoration of the historically significant local structure. Ivy is growing over much of the fort and people are concerned about the extent of the damage being caused as a result.
Paula Harvey of Ardara GAP Heritage and History Group told the Donegal Post: “An expert from the Dry Stone Wall Association of Ireland said if the ivy isn’t cut there simply won’t be a monument.”
Cutting the ivy is , however, a very delicate process. One on hand, it is damaging the structure. But because it has grown in through the walls, killing it off could in turn cause the fort to collapse.
“We have to do it under strict guidelines,” said Ms Harvey. “It is not a case of heading out there with secateurs and snipping away at it. We have to be very careful and do it in a controlled way.”
It is Ms Harvey herself who has been appointed to ensure that the work is carried out under those conservation guidelines. She will be at the Ardara Show this weekend where the Ardara GAP History and Heritage Group have a stand.
“Anyone who would like to get involved on a voluntary basis with the work on Doon Fort can come along and fill out a form,” she said.
Even with the major challenge of dealing with the ivy problem, Ms Harvey is feeling very optimistic about the future of Doon Fort.
“This is the first physical piece of work that we are allowed to do,” she said. “I am delighted that we have got this far.”
Of course, getting to the stage of being able to begin this work involves a huge amount of preparation. There are painstaking studies, detailed conservation plans and seemingly endless application forms.
Ms Harvey said: “There is so much behind the scenes work going on. It looks like you’re not making progress when really you are doing a lot. This is finally something that people can see. It is a major step.
Last year the group received a major boost when Doon Fort was selected in the national Adopt a Monument Scheme. This project was one of only five chosen from 90 applicants nationwide.
The Adopt A Monument scheme provides expertise, mentoring and support to community groups in order to help them to care for their local heritage.
Doon Fort is considered an important example of the western stone forts that can be found from Kerry to Donegal. While it is not known without excavation how old Doon Fort is, other similar forts have been dated at the early medieval period.
The fast spreading ivy and partial collapse of the stone fortification were highlighted as the main issues to be addressed.
The group believe that the work will have a positive impact on local tourism development. Doon Fort is a hidden gem in the truest sense. It is situated on a lake island central to Portnoo, Rosbeg, Glenties and Ardara, an area steeped in history
With Heritage Week just around corner, people will have the opportunity get a closer look at Doon Fort as well as other points of interest in the area.
On Sunday, August 20 there will be a bus tour leaving from the Kilclooney Dolmen Centre. Even people who think they know the area might be surprised at just how important this corner of Donegal is in terms of history and heritage.
Ms Harvey said: “Last year, more than half the people on the tour were local. A lot of them didn’t know about the dolmen and other features in the area. This bus trip will take in Doon Fort as well as the archaeology of Ardara.”
Ms Harvey would like to acknowledge the support of the Doon Fort landowners.
“We are indebted to the McHugh family for their support for the restoration of the monument,” she said.
More information on Heritage Week events being run by the group can be found on the Ardara GAP History and Heritage Group Facebook page.
Friday, August 11, 2017
A dry stone arch we recently 'planted' in Oakville Ontario.
I'm always delighted to see how successfully a properly built dry stone arch compliments the other elements of a well planned garden. Like the plants and shrubs surrounding it, an arch can feel like it has grown out of the earth and has found nourishment in the soil, and is thriving in the same sunlight, and drinking the same rain, that makes the whole garden shimmer with life.
An arch evokes the feeling of growth, not just because of the stone's radiating pattern or its magical blossom-like opening or even the 'naturalness' of the material it is made of, but because it is has literally risen from the ground up. It has not been plonked there in the garden like some statue or sculpture. Unlike a giant boulder or huge chunk of armour stone, it has not merely been shoved into place by some heavy machine. No, it has taken time to grown there. The stones, like seeds, have been planted and cultivated and coaxed into something beautiful. The flowing shape of an arch is something that emerges from within the surrounding flora.
Thursday, August 10, 2017
Our two day Kingsmer Farm workshop near Ottawa involved learning to build a wall with the available stone. No imported stone from China. No quarry stone from far away. No palleted squarish stuff from a stone supplier. No easy to shape limestone.
It's a satisfying thing to see rounded fieldstone granite sit up and look smart and be formed into such a cohesive structure.
A newly built wall is not something you just look at and admire, or even just lean on.
It's something to celebrate and shout about. Like scoring a overtime goal or hitting a home run or serving the winning ace at the end of the tennis match.
Building a wall has all the benefits of an athletic sport. It's possibly more thrilling and far more lasting with more of a sense of accomplishment than most outdoor activities..
Here are the healthy women and girls who helped make the wall.
A long with the grownups Echo and Willow ( two of the children who's mom and dad were taking the course) did a super job too helping build the wall and even as we were finishing up rolled this big cope up onto the wall.! Well done you two !
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
Monday, August 7, 2017
Sunday, August 6, 2017
This is the chosen section of old historic "wall" at Kingsmere Farm in Gatineau Park that needed 'repair' this year . There would be a lot of lifting.
So, yesterday morning, after some class time teaching the basics of wall building and some safety rules ( one being, remember to lift with your knees), the students set about removing the many tons of roundish glacial granite.
Their eagerness to go about separating such a huge jumble of unruly rocks was gratifying. I explained the difference between a rock and a stone – a rock being an 'unemployed' stone. Someone remarked that these stones had been on a long vacation from their job.
By noon an almost biblical parting of the stone sea was achieved and the footprint for the wall then determined with white spray paint. White is such a hopeful colour.
By the end of the day the class had completed what the Brits like to call the 'first lift'. I think they all did way more lifting by then, but I don't make the rules.
Saturday, August 5, 2017
Last night I ate vegetarian at the Lanterne De Szechwan restaurant in Gatineau and had a pot of Chinese tea. This was after putting in a hard day preparing the site. I'm in Quebec teaching a two day walling workshop in Gateneau Park this weekend. My tea leaves are predicting were gonna knock the wall outta the park !
Friday, August 4, 2017
Whenever film crews come into town they don't seem to have any problem getting people to stop making noise.
The leaf blowers, the motorcyclists, the heavy machines operators, the construction workers, the screeching tire enthusiasts, the screaming kids - weirdly, the whole community obligingly goes around on tippy toes for the duration of the 'shoot'.
This seems to me the solution to not being able to build walls in any kind of quiet bliss because of the constant clamour and ear-splitting cacophony of the mad world around us - that is, merely bring along a sign to the job site that states unabashedly...
'Be quiet, there's a movie being filmed here ! '
Thursday, August 3, 2017
Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Last evening we watched a beautiful movie The Gardener about an award winning garden in Quebec called Quatre-Vents designed and created by Francis Cabot. The opening of the film had a verse from a Poem by Alexander Pope. It is certainly worth seeing if you love gardens.
by Alexander Pope
( Below is the excerpt from that poem which touches on gardening, where all must be adapted to the genius and use of the place, and the beauties not forced into it, but resulting from it. )
Let not each beauty everywhere be spied,
Where half the skill is decently to hide.
He gains all points who pleasingly confounds,
Surprises, varies, and conceals the bounds.
His gardens next your admiration call;
On every side you look, behold the wall!