Tuesday, October 19, 2010

One Rock Mantel Made out of Love

When Paul Bunyan and I lived out in Breckenridge, Colorado he was on the Breck ski patrol. It was a very arduous job which included skiing freshies every morning and blowing canons full of explosives at the sides of mountains just to see an avalanche. I shouldn't poke fun because he actually was first on scene at a few deaths, which is never something you ever want to witness.

However, in the off season Paul worked a few side jobs. One summer he worked construction pouring concrete for a brand new water treatment plant that was going in down the road from us. The plus was that he could walk to work. The negative was that he got drug tested when he got there.

Another job he took on was for a young mason who built stone facades on the foundations of the monster log houses being built on either side of the Breckenridge valley. Now Paul came out of his mother's womb loving rocks, or so I'm told, but he learned some amazing techniques from Evan.

And it wasn't until now that we got to reap the benefits of his knowledge.

Paul was working diligently on this project for a good month before the Mothership arrived.

Like two small children, Paul and I went up into our woods to hunt for rocks. We would bring the tractor and stop in the creek beds and lift up the ones we liked over our heads and yell to the other, "what about this one?".

And after washing them off in the pools of clear water, we would fill our pockets with the small ones, and carry the big ones to the bucket of the tractor.

We crossed Happy Hollow to Johnny Brook, to a place the kids call Terabithia, and climbed down the rope Paul Bunyan tied to a tree so the spawn could get up and down the cliff easier.

The water was rushing because of recent rains and although it was fall, the lush mosses and ferns poured green onto the forest floor. It was magical to play with my husband as children do. We've played as adults...hiking, and biking and skiing. But it's different. We felt the innocence of the place and the adventure of the collecting task. We left the rocks we liked on logs or placed them to the side so when we walked back down the creek we could gather them up in our arms.

We jumped over pools and steadied ourselves on wet rocks and managed to turn over meaning in our search. Paul Bunyan was about to build something that was grounded in this moment. He would build something that when I looked at it, from the day he finished it to the day I close my eyes, would always make me remember our childish hunt.

And as he built this hearth, the center of our home, I sat and spun my fiber. I watched him try to piece together the things we collected. I watched him stand back and formulate the pattern of his wall.

I watched him tie the bigger rocks in with wire, so they would be more sturdy.

I watched him try to make it all fit together.

I won't lie to you, even though I know you'll think I'm crazy. But I thought a lot of Peter- the ghost of the man who lived in this house before we changed it all around. He built it with his own two hands. I haven't heard him creaking in and out of our bed lately. And now that the stairs are gone, I can't hear him coming down them. And when Paul Bunyan took the two last steps away from Peter's staircase so he could replace them with his big stone ones, I was starting to get sad. And then, finally, we gave his old woodstove away to Uncle Stinky Jon for a wedding gift- you know, the one that whistled. And now his legacy, which came to us in sounds, is gone. We've burned his cherry floor boards. We've erased what he has built (well, except for his godawful bathroom tile, which is probably where he is seeking his refuge now).

What Paul has built is our legacy.

The one rock that I really cared about. The one that I really cherished from our hunts. The one that had so much significance for me because it had 5 sides to it and was a perfect pentagon and represented our family of five and was a symbol for how strong we are as a family, didn't make it into the wall.

Throughout the construction I kept saying to Paul, "where is this one going to go?" "Can this one fit here?" "This one has to go in somewhere." And then, when it was all over and there sat my rock NOT in the wall, Paul said he couldn't make it fit. A five sided rock didn't fit in a puzzle of round pieces. So, I've decided it will permanently sit on top. Forever. Until the next person who inhabits this place wants to tear it all down and make it their own. And by then, I'll be the ghost living in the bathroom.

The new Vermont Casting woodstove doesn't whistle. It doesn't make a sound.

And it doesn't heat as well as the old Hearthstone did.

But it's the hearth that heats the home anyway. And this one, well this one exudes a lot of warmth.


  1. I can feel the heat from that hearth over here Hussy, your story warms my heart.

  2. way cool. i mean warm.

  3. We are blown away by the beauty of your rock creation and the warmth of your story. We were very moved by how you worked so hard together gathering rock to complete this family legacy. We love you, PB and Hussy...Popi and Suey

  4. PB did a great job. Very impressive.

  5. pretty sure my parents have this same stone wall/stove combo in their basement. they love putting up stone walls. i think their whole house is covered in stone by now. but i know what a project that is (since i somehow got volunteered to help) but they turn out so beautiful!

    great job.