Wednesday, November 29, 2017


A well built dry stone wall, where all the stones are fitted well, often looks like the stones have all started to melt into each other. I sometimes wonder if that 'melted look' could somehow be intensified, would the wall look even better?
Maybe not.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The 15th type of non-regular pentagon

Three scientists have made maths history by finding a new type of pentagon that can tile a floor without overlapping or leaving any gaps. It's what researchers call 'tiling the plane' and their discovery is only the 15th type of non-regular pentagon that can do this, with the last one found 30 years ago
Three scientists have made maths history by finding a new type of pentagon that can tile a floor without overlapping or leaving any gaps. It's what researchers call 'tiling the plane' and their discovery is only the 15th type of non-regular pentagon that can do this, with the last one found 30 years ago


While a triangle and a square can be tiled in limitless shapes and sizes, it is mathematically proven that convex polygons with more than six sides cannot.
Tiling with a non-traditional pentagon is a challenge that many have accepted over the past century, but a few people have been successful.
A German mathematician discovered five pentagons that tile in 1918 and a San Diego housewife also discovered five. The latest 15th tile discovery is the first in 30 years.
The discovery was made by researchers at Washington University using a computer program written by an undergraduate student.
The scientists included mathematics associate professor Casey Mann and his wife, Jennifer McLoud-Mann, along with undergraduate researcher David Von Derau.
The research could also have practical uses in many areas, including biochemistry and structural design.
'Many structures that we see in nature, from crystals to viruses, are comprised of building blocks that are forced by geometry and other dynamics to fit together to form the larger scale structure,' Mann told the Guardian.
'Aside from the practical uses of this new knowledge, which would include a whole different way to tile a floor,' he added.

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Monday, November 27, 2017

Rocks, You and your Fingernails

Where there are rocks, watch out! Watch out, because the rocks are going to eventually come alive and they are going to have people crawling over them. It is only matter of time, just in the same way the acorn is eventually going to turn into the oak because it has the potentiality of that within it. Rocks are not dead. You see, it depends on what kind of attitude you want to take to the world…

You cannot get an intelligent organism such as a human being out of an unintelligent universe. So in any lump of rock floating about in space, there is implicit human intelligence. 

Don’t differentiate yourself and standoff against this and say ‘I am a living organism in a world made of a lot of dead junk, rocks and stuff.’ It all goes together, those rocks are just as much you as your finger nails.”

~ Alan Watts

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Some Basketwall Rules

Rarely one on one, mostly one over two, or two over one.

No running joints with the wall 

Threw-stones score big with the referee 

Sometimes Blocking is allowed

Getting a lot of Fast Breaks doesn't always mean you're gonna win.

( Add your own rules in the comment section )

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Order from Chaos

Final order is seen rising out of the rubble of stones wallers had left over to build with after working with them at the Barriefield Festival.

I thought I'd take this opportunity to post a small selection of recent photos of the now completed walling project at St Marks church in Barriefield. Members of Dry Stone Canada attended a special weekend event to do some final finishing up of the restoration project taken on at last October's successful dry stone festival . A talented crew of volunteers made quite a dramatic change to the church entrance in this Kingston's most historic village. Well done!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Odd or Even Temperament

Most truly great artists have a reputation for having huge mood swings. As for me, I have good go at being creative and yet seem to coast along on a fairly even keel emotionally. Somewhere in the middle I'd say – neither getting really down and depressed, or going into euphoric raptures or excitable spells where visions happen. This lack of extremes kind of worries me. 
I wonder. Is it necessary to become crazy, self- loathing or deliriously happy to be truly inspired or create good art?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

More than a scrambled pattern

If you stare at this stone pattern long enough, not focusing on anything particular except perhaps on a reflection on your screen (as if you were looking at that reflection beyond the surface of the screen) you will eventually see a three dimensional object. What is it?

Here's another with a similar subject

And Another

Are you seeing the hidden DNA?

Sometimes what we don't see – say in a dry stone wall, or a situation, or a person, is still very visible under the surface, waiting to be appreciated, if we just defocused and let ourselves see things in a whole different way.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

DNA and Ayahuasca

Scientists may one day be able to take a photo of the DNA molecule magnified so powerfully that they will actually be able see the 8 atom wide double helix string-shape as clearly as this digitalized image shows.

In his book The Cosmic Serpent, anthropologist Jeremy Narby explores the correlation between scientific investigation into DNA and the approach of shamans in Western Amazon, who come into a knowledge of the 'life source' through use of hallucinogenics made from plants.

The common 'thread' is the various 'visions' of a twinned/spiralling/coiled ladder/snake perceived to be imbedded deep within every living thing in the universe

Those having taken Ayahuasca, in a ritualized manner, often experience a vivid insight into a higher world where two entwined snakes ( not unlike the double helix ) appear to be the essential basis of an otherwise 'unknowable' part of the cosmos.

From these visions, the indigenous people are informed of many things including the pre-existing healing qualities of many plants that grow in the Amazon, precise combinations and mixtures of which create medicines which could not possibly have been discovered even through thousands of years of experimentation.

Could the blurry double helix scientists are trying to see more clearly be a metaphorical link to 'higher perception' and more mystical altered states, where inspiration comes directly from the cosmic life force.  Is the creative process, which leads to  truly great music, art, writing and amazing scientific discoveries, the process of climbing that same illusive ladder, where pre-existing cosmic fruit hovers about', just waiting to be picked, (by those who enter, consciously or unconsciously) into some 'other' mysterious parallel realm. 

My 'Rubble Helix' is a nod to that concept, with all its implications. 

A photo of my original dry stone idea (installed some years ago on a property in Southern Ontario) is seen here in a whimsically manipulated form. It is the digitilaized image of a 'mineralized' version of the DNA crystal, magnified trillions of times to appear clear as crystal, life-sized and almost life-like. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Beyond Classrooms

During our kids walling event held during the Dry Stone Canada Barriefield Festival last October, I was asked by one of the local teachers if I might like to participate later in a local  Beyond Classrooms  program and give a talk to children about dry stone walls. 

Last Thursday I was delighted to be able to spend time with two dozen grade 3 and 4 students at the Frontenac County Schools Museum in Barriefield exploring various creative activities involving designing and building arched bridges.

The link  below is to a short video clip of one of the highlights of that class. 

Beyond Classrooms Kingston moves teachers and their classrooms into community museums, art galleries and community sites for an entire week.  The host site becomes an extension of the teacher’s classroom, where he or she can help students enhance their literacy, critical thinking and problem solving skills, in an authentic environment.

Working alongside host site staff and the BCK Coordinator, each teacher designs a unique program that uses the students’ week at the site, as a catalyst for inquiry-based learning.

Learning at a museum or gallery for an entire week takes away the field trip feeling and creates an environment where students can slow down their learning, look closely and reflect, through sketching and journal writing.

Presentations by specialists, hands-on activities, time spent exploring the collections – all stimulate curiosity, and encourage further investigation.  Frequent opportunities for reflection and discussion heighten student discovery and play a significant role in helping to foster cultural awareness, civic pride, community responsibility, and stewardship.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A good Impersonation

Paraic usually builds walls like this on his farm on Inis Oirr

It's good to see our Irish dry stone waller visitor is having no trouble building in a style different from what he’s used to. Providing he's got the appropriate stone, good experienced waller, like a good impersonator, should be able, after some practice, to do a reliably accurate version of any type of wall he has been asked to reproduce.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

What to make of it.

We have Paraic Pol with us this week at our latest project in Rockport Ontario. Here he was yesterday, happily picking limestone with Mark and I out of the quarry we go to near Madoc Ontario for a wall we are racing building this month before the weather closes in.  

He says he hasn't seen such a large amount of limestone material, or bedrock so close to the surface, since he left Inis Oirr. It will be interesting to see how different this flattish, more easily faced dolomite material is for Paraic work with.  Will it be more difficult or more easy?  

Monday, November 13, 2017

Aesthetic Procrastination

This circular double garden terrace project at the back of a modern new house was a big one. After a steady month of three of us working full days, the dry stone work on these terrace walls was completed about this time last year. 

The look of the soil coming almost to the tops of the copes gave the walls more of an aesthetic appeal than having them all sitting fully exposed, above the grade of the terraces.

When my client's wife visited last winter ( after we'd cleared off ) she told her husband she loved everything except the upright copes. 

Reluctantly I agreed last spring to take them off and replace the upright copes with flat ones.

I did say however that we were busy (which we were) and was able to stall as long as I could until late August when I decided to make the phone call to say we were now able to come and change up the copes.

My client answered, "After enjoying our walls during out visits to the site this summer, my wife has really grown to like the look of the top stones on the walls now. Actually I don't think we want to change anything, thank you John."

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Still Standing and Always Remembering

Perhaps stones remember too. 

Maybe there is more to their enduring strength and hardness than we see. 

That we remember things, especially hard things from the past, and remain respectful and compassionate and still look to the good in everything, perhaps this is part of that same 'enduring' we see made manifest in stone.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Entrenched in History

Next to the The Canadian National Vimy Memorial monument at the Vimy Ridge a part of the old battlefield and trenches has been preserved. The Canadian National Vimy Memorial at the Vimy Ridge is Canada's most impressive tribute overseas to those Canadians who fought and gave their lives in the World War I. The memorial overlooks the Douai Plain from the highest point of Vimy Ridge. The monument holds the names of 11,285 Canadian soldiers who were killed in France and whose final resting place is unknown. 

'Yorkshire Trench' was the name given to a front line position dug by units of the 49th (West Riding) Division near the Yser canal at Boesinghe in 1915/16. The Belgian archaeology group The Diggers worked on this site over many years and recovered much material and many human remains from the area. Their work was featured on The Forgotten Battlefield, a documentary made by BBC Producer John Hayes-Fisher. The publicity following this programme made the local authorities in the Ypres area keen on preserving some part of what The Diggers had uncovered, and in May 2003 the Yorkshire Trench & Dugout site was opened following much hard work on the part of the Diggers themselves.

Canadian soldiers in the trenches at Vimy Ridge in 1917 during the First World War.

Soldiers quietly wait in the sodden trenches of the Great War

Friday, November 10, 2017

Stone Hill Halloween Spectacle

Crowds, stone, fire, music, costumes, and a procession - elements that make a great spectacle combined to really make a spectacular occasion at Stone Hill Farm near Flint Hill, Virginia last October 28th. Here are just a few photos of some of the many people in costume who ended up exploring the amazing dry stone amphitheatre on the property . 

The City of Alexandria Pipes & Drums and the Gold Top Country Ramblers piped for the crowds as they assembled for the spectacle.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Gradual steps.

A friend of mine had been gradually collecting stone from his drives through the country for a stairway he eventually wanted to have built leading up to his deck.
He phoned me when he thought he'd collected enough. 
I said it probably was enough but that they were pretty challenging stones to make stairs with .

But anyway we did it.
We even had some left over. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

What Now?

Ever wonder 'What now is it’ ? There are so many different kinds of 'nows'. 

There are the long ones that you get a lot done in. There are the nows that are gone in a flash – that whole day of walling, and you got nothing done. Where did the time go? 

It's like, "what now?" There just always seems to be something. If it isn’t too late, it’s way too early. If you get the wall built on time, the materials cost too much. If instead of time and materials, you charge by the job, you end up in a race against time. 

I try not to look at my watch. I try not to watch what time it looks like. The clock in my truck is still on daylight loosing time. (It’s bad on gas too) I can’t figure out how to reset it. I know it says in the manual somewhere how to change the clock, but I don’t have the time to look it up.  

Anyway I’ve got a lot of rocks to set. Forget clocks. It’s way more important not to forget when, where and how to set rocks. And that's pretty simple – they either go forward (on the wall) or they go back. When the time comes I usually know what to do with one when I pick it up. It’s called being 'in the know'. And being in the know is as close to being in the now as I get. 

Most rocks are timeless, which means they're neither new or old. They are neither late or early.

I’m usually on time, I hate being late, but I just read somewhere that people that are late for everything live longer and are generally happier, more spontaneous, more optimistic. Good for them. Anyway, if that IS the case, I hope to learn how to always be late, one day.

You would think working with rocks would slow me down, but they don't seem to. Even when I try to go slow, they just go slower. They're in a totally different time zone from the rest of us.  I work with them everyday, and I usually end up going faster and faster. It's like a slippery slope. 

Anyway, I think the ones I’m working with now must be on rocky mountain time. I gotta go. I’m late.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Memories of Mallorca

Hiking along the Ruta de Pedra en Sac in Mallorca is good fun. Even so, it can be exhausting as you climb up and up and then down and down, and you can get very thirsty, and yes, you sometimes get lost. 

But you do come across a lot of interesting people and tons and tons of amazing 'Mallorca style' dry stone retaining walls.

With iPad on my lap during the 8 hour flight home, I digitally painted an 'embellished' memory of that wonderful 8 hour hike we took from Deia up into the mountains. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

( Part 2 and 3 )

Above-below the din
A few quiet men
Observe the cells fragility

How Monday's child
Makes Tuesday's vegetable
And Wednesday's petrifies
The leaf to mineral
While Friday sparks the whole in fire
And Sunday's elements disperse
And rise in air.

The stone in my hand
IS my hand
And stamped with tracings of
A once green blooded frond,
Is here is gone, will come
Was fire, and green, and water,
Will be wind. 

From the Hangman Ties the Holly
By Anne Wilkinson

Thursday, November 2, 2017

A poem in three parts. (part 1)

Those behind
Those about me
Millions crowding to come after me
Look over my shoulder.

Together we consider
The merit of stone (I hold a stone in my hand for all to see)
A geologist tells the time it has endured
Endurance, a virtue in itself, we say
Makes its own monument .

We pause, resent
The little span
A miser's rule
Inched out for man

But blood consoles us
Can be squeezed from us
Not from stone.

Saying this fools no one
A sudden bluster of words
Claims for human seed
A special dispensation
Foxes and flowers and other worthies
All excluded.

Immediately sixteen creeds
Cry out to be defended –
A state of emergency exists ;

Flying buttresses
Revolving domes, a spire extended
By the spirit of
A new and startling growth of thorns

Skies in Asia catch
On uplifted wings of temples
In the Near East the talk is of stables.

Part one of 'A Poem In Three Parts' from the Hangman Ties the Holly
By Anne Wilkinson