I’m recombobulating a portion of my stone-lined gravel paths. I enjoy the work even though it’s slow. And it’s slow because I’m not chipping-and-fitting or using blocks like a big-boy mason. I’m using whatever rocks we threw into the back of the pickup truck twenty years ago and they tend to have funhouse-mirror facets. They don’t necessarily stack nice and I’m not using mortar. So I perch them in place and backfill with gravel and dirt and hope somebody’s visiting four-year-old doesn’t decide to walk on top of them.

All the material is local basalt. It might take me most of the day to get three feet of wall put together but God took almost no time at all when he flang it out in molten form from eastern Oregon to the coast. But that’s God for you. He doesn’t have my kind of patience—that’s why there’s so much smiting.

The walls did pretty well for twenty years but, with time, things shift and slide and crumble, as every post-menopausal woman knows; and they still make four-year-olds. One attempts to pound errant rocks back into place but eventually you just have to start over. I decided to alter the course of the path in a few places. I used to stretch out a hose to visualize it and mark where I wanted to dig, but all my hoses now are the kind that shrink up like a tubular scrotum when the water’s off. I looked around for some kind of little sticks I could use as flags and, in a flash of inspiration, I cut off the leeks I was deadheading and used those. I only mention this because they were absolutely adorable.

I’ve discovered things. If you are replacing a section of wall in which the stones had fit particularly well, you will always try to remove them in order and lay them out so that you can recreate your previous triumph, and they will never ever go back the original way. They might as well have been infiltrated with stealth meteorites that showed up when you were scratching your butt. You simply have to start over fresh.

I’ve had to dig down a bit to lever out some of the base rocks, and I keep discovering rocks below those rocks. Large basalt chunks that have become entirely covered with soil or gravel over the years. How could this happen? One does lose a bit of wall height when shoveling in the gravel for the paths, but this is ridiculous. I’ve always wondered how they keep finding entire cities buried below modern ones. I know, people get busy, they don’t always keep up with the news, or keep track of every little thing, but short of a massive volcanic eruption, how careless do you have to be to lose an entire city? Are we shoving old cities beneath us bit by bit until they’re deep enough to melt and re-erupt, spewing molten artifacts?

Somehow over the years I’ve managed to inter about eight inches of carefully-pieced wallage beneath my flower garden. I still don’t know how. I don’t know whether to keep going or contact the archaeology museum. They’d send over a whole crew of sunburnt grad students with dental picks and tiny sable brushes and they’ll find the remnants of a temple and sarcophagus and I’ll be enjoined from gardening until everything is catalogued. I’d have a whole summer off and it might be restful if they don’t expect me to provide the sandwiches. Maybe I’ll just pull up a lawn chair and see how fast the field bindweed and blackberries can re-bury the whole site. Grad students and all.