There he went - bumping through the wall with the Lull.
All I could do for a moment was watch; the opening had been about six feet, now it was pushed open to ten.
One man was flagging the Lull, another walked beside it in order to spot and support the tree they were relocating, also aiming to assure that nothing important would be bumped. Despite the watchful eyes, the Lull operator continued to navigate his heavy machine directly through the wall in construction.
The next day the crew's track loader bumped through the newly repaired wall, this time crushing the stone and shifting the linked stones in the wall for about ten feet. When the man driving the track loader tried to drive through the wall I stood in the opening saying to him,
"No! I am working here! You cannot keep breaking my wall!"
The operator shrugged, pivot-turned the machine and drove out over the sidewalk. Mike and I went to lunch.
Upon return, the track loader was no longer on site, the same section of wall I had earlier defended was again broken, and the tree-planting/wall-demolition crew was no where to be seen. I called their boss as it was necessary to explain that we needed to come to a resolution about sharing the space. We were abruptly disconnected. Now, I don't want to say that he hung up on me, but the level of my voice may have hit an octave that he was unable to listen to further so he to put his phone down.
At this point we were looking into the last two days of our 90 ton project on the grounds of the new Environmental Hall at Duke University in North Carolina;
I needed every second of daylight, no second could be devoted or spared to rebuild, re-rebuild, and rebuild again the same section of wall.
As the Law of Nature would have it, that was the same day I received the phone call that Marmaduke just suffered through a serious stroke, such a circumstance that left us only moments to be with him. Mike and I were deep into the project in North Carolina, and our rescue pup was seriously ill in foster care in Vermont.
A crushing race to end. Every stone counted, every spark of sunlight, every ounce of strength, crushing the wall.
I had to get home in time. I had been moving and laying up to ten tons of material everyday. Now we were onto the finishing details, bodies dialed into the rhythm of the routine.
Shoveling wet sand, breaking ice out of water buckets and the wheel barrow, mixing mud, slinging buckets of mortar to the job, smooth.
We were racing against freezing mornings, drizzly days and the constant hard-hats, eyes from every window in the glass building, the safety police, the red lights clicking on and off in the road, cars looking, photographers interjecting for poses and pictures, and the landscape crew breaking the wall again and again.
We did finish the project on the last day, packed the car, loaded out and got home in time to scoop Marmaduke up in our arms; I had just a few days with him after our return. The sweet, loving dog I had rescued last winter from St. Croix died in my arms after enduring a night-long seizure.
I will miss him, but will use the energy he transferred to me through his struggle towards a creative push. Somehow, as surly as the spring days lengthen, I will find a way to channel his gift into my own.
This coming year, I have several trips planned; among them will be a return to my beloved Italian Alps with a group of new and returning students.
Once the bug gets you, it's nearly impossible to remain unaffected by Italy.
It's my wish to restore one of the houses in ancient Ghesc one day, and call it home, at least for a time. In Italy, the experience of life is without all the extras we in the U.S. so often cram into our lives. If one can walk to a place, one does. The village we are working on is up the side of a mountain, there is no way to get a vehicle to it. So we walk to the destination of our job site. If we need material, such as stone, a tractor will bring it as close to the desired location as possible, then dump it; we carry it from there.
Not one minute of labor can possibly be resented. It is beautiful, a 'wholistic' thing, for which we are rewarded with the hugest simple sandwiches of cheese and homemade pickles, and fresh water, and always the tiniest cups of the strongest coffee possible.
In the evenings, we pile into cars after feasting and go find music at churches, up the side of other hills, through valleys far and wide and troupe in with others, all dressed to the Nines to sit and listen and sip red wine from clear plastic cups.
This year I will return to the Mandela Gardens of Marion Illinois to repair the arches there which collapsed under an hundred year winter, and also to help rebuild their ponds which were also lost to the extreme flooding. For a large portion of time I will travel to Maine to work on a stone house with a stone roof; plans are in for working at St. Michaels University, as well as a permaculture school in Minnesota (ey?), Kinstone Academy. Between which I'll return to Italy to work on the reconstruction of a Trullo deep in the southern tip of the boot.
From there I will travel a path similar to that of the Monarch Butterfly,
as far as Valle de Bravo in Mexico, where Mike and I will be working with the Universidad del Medio Ambiente. Teaching natural building practices to people for whom generations have been natural builders.
In all things, I look forward, and try not to look too deeply behind. In a recent interview, I was asked the question "What do you love?" I love many things. I really do. One thing I know for sure and keep coming back to is that I love stone, in all its forms, and everything it can do, and all the people it calls to, speaks to and sings with.
Keep tabs on these upcoming projects as they happen, find me at MyEarthwork on Facebook.