Saturday, May 8, 2010

Last Day

[photo by Libby Hicks]

I've been spending a lot of time on a scaffold, building the chimney behind me in the photo. It's a neat place to work. Usually a nice breeze, particularly as you get higher and higher. There's a highway about sixty yards off to the left, with semis and motorcycles, people going hither and yon. Now and then someone would actually stop and pull into the driveway, come over and ask me about stone work, or about the cabin. This was a masonry job, not my own place, so I'd tell them what I knew: my client has a hope that she can turn the place into a weaving school, as she's a great weaver. It's a long road she's undertaken, but it'll be a wonderful thing if she can pull it all off. There's a youtube of the barnraising that happened on the place a year ago--if you want you can go to youtube and search "Vollrath Barn Raising" and watch that. What you'll see is community.

I started this chimney last fall. Then the harsh winter of '09-'10 arrived, along with Christmas and New Years, various music gigs, snow that blocked our driveway and made all masonry work impossible for a good long time. But spring finally did come, and I got done with the inside part of the chimney, and then started up the scaffold, section by section. The finished work is a bit over 20 feet high. Each rock has to be laid, one after the other. I try not to get in a big rush about time, as I want the work to look considered and well built from top to bottom.

Yesterday, May 7, it was suddenly done. Just like when you land at the airport. All that stuff in your mind about getting to the airport, did you pack the right stuff, where's your ticket, the camera, the fiddle, every worry and fret that fills your mind for a few days before a trip--it's all over when your plane lands and there's some new place whizzing by at 150 mph for a few seconds, until the flaps slow you down to the pace of the world you actually live in. Yesterday, after about an hour's work, the scaffold was down, stacked against a wall, and the mixer was in the truck, and my work place was dismantled, gone forever. What was left was the cabin, now sporting a chimney that should last longer than the logs, and far far longer than I will.

There in the center of the front face, just below the start of the stack, is a big rock I brought from my woods, about 15 miles or so from where the cabin is located. I like to put a stone or two of my own into my jobs, a little subtle signature.

I live on a piece of land that might include some sort of ancient volcanic activity. It sports mostly a very heavy, black/blue rock. Up on the top of the hill behind my house the rock is outcrop, big pieces, some of them almost perfectly cubic, others weather-worn, and many with the pale green lichen you can see (perhaps) in the photo. That rock's been sitting in my woods, habitat for that lichen, for hundreds of years. Now I've put it up in the air in a chimney. I hope it appreciates the notoriety. I hope it's not a shy rock, now forever bummed.

Anyways. Here it is Saturday. Now I'm in the state of existence known as "between jobs." I'm sure if it lasts too look I'll start getting worried, but at the moment, it's a total delight.

Happy Mother's Day tomorrow. Wish my mom could have seen this chimney, and my dad too.


  1. that is a beautiful, beautiful chimney, and if the rock is shy it will quickly learn confidence. hope you didn't crush your bowing hand with those heavy stones.

  2. ps thanks for the tip to the thursday night bassett blog! first dog i ever loved was a bassett hound. her name was Susie, and she belonged to our next-door-neighbors. she was old and fat and never moved. petting her was as comforting as petting a big soft old pillow.

  3. Thanks to Laurie for sending me here. Beautiful chimney, beautiful post. Love the rhythm in your sentences--must be the fiddler in you.

    You should come to Vermont and play with our stones sometime. We live on top of one of the world's richest slate deposits. There's marble here too, of course, and granite farther north.

  4. here from Laurie's
    my husband has tackled a few mason projects (our patio columns for one)
    but nothing quite so ancient and tedious as that chimeny. wow. just wow.