Well it was three years in the making and each stone was lovingly placed, 30 tons in all. And as I built this wall when ever I got the chance I learn’t a lot, the stones do indeed speak.
I started this wall as a fit 59 year old, strong enough to lift up the 80 kg base stones and stagger round. What I quickly found out was my muscles might have been up to the task but my tendons weren’t and for the next year I learnt how precious the gift of being able to lift a cup of coffee is and wondered if I would ever carve again.
But I digress, it was my cancer that the wall and I discussed and the irony on being well enough to build a stone wall yet have stage 4 cancer was not lost on either the wall or myself. I often asked it unanswerable questions on the fairness of life or whether you could survive through effort alone, but most of all I just asked if each rock should go “there”.
You see I was told that the real expert wall builders ( mine is a dry stone wall so no cement) placed every stone they picked up into the wall, they never put it back on the pile they just knew which one next to place.
The reason behind this is of course that if you are being paid to build a wall there is no money in putting stones back on the pile, but to me it was about the ZEN of it all. Being able to pick and place every stone in the right place seemed so perfect, so …graceful, a test of a true craftsman.
And so I rushed headlong into mastering the building technique, efficiently was the key and I knew that efficiency was the brother of speed. And indeed I did get faster and I started building the wall never putting back a stone, my progress was quite staggering and the wall seemed to jump into life.
That was until I returned to it one weekend and for a moment I just stood and looked. It may have been the light that day, or maybe my mood or even just a reflective moment, what ever it was as I looked my heart sank I couldn’t put my finger on it….it wasn’t right.
And so that day I tore it down, my partner Lorraine who couldn’t see the imperfections couldn’t understand why I was undoing all that work and I am not sure that I did really.
But in my haste to be the ZEN stone mason I had lost my way, I had stopped talking to the stones and had started telling them where they would go, in my efficiency I had forgotten to listen. In my haste I had stopped our conversations and just concentrated on the task at hand, building a wall in the shortest time possible just to be finished and available for the next task.
And at that moment I realised I had missed our conversations with me posing the impossible questions and the wall patiently listening to me and quietly waiting till I had figured out the answers. I had misplaced the love of something for the speed of its completion and very nearly missed the whole point of doing it.
And so I went back to my slow inefficient way of wall building, picking stones up and asking them where they wanted to go, sometimes putting them back on the pile and other times walking round the wall with them offering them one spot or another and listening to their response.
And as we built the wall together the stones and I, an understanding grew. And as my treatment progressed and I became less able to place as many stones so the discussions became longer between each one but the wall never complained it never chided me about my progress it just listened to my questions and offered its silence so that I might hear the answer I sought.
And little by little we got there until it was finished, and I realised I was sad it was over as we had endured some hard times and had some uplifting ones.
But it had taught me something that was irreplaceable, it had taught me that we are living in an unsustainable way, man needs time to think things through, we need silence so we may hear our thoughts and we need to get our hands dirty in order to be connected to this planet we live on.
But what I learn’t most of all is that the power of talking to yourself in a patient and respectful way can bring about some powerful changes, so much so that I changed my career and have become a Hypnotherapist, I have become the wall.
Footnote: my next wall is teaching me how to develop an entirely new concept for businesses to enable them to imagine they are their clients to see how their products and services really look. Watch out for the IMAGINAIRIUM…..