I’m making rock walls again.

I’ve made a bunch already: rock-lined gravel paths meander through the garden. We’re all about basalt here. I mean, half of Oregon is basalt from repeated lava flows so massive they shoved the Columbia River all the way up to Astoria even before Astoria had been properly invented. We’ve got shit-tons of basalt.

And it makes good walls. So I started looking for nice chunks of basalt lying around on the side of the road and Dave got used to me slamming on the brakes and hopping out to toss rocks into the back of my car. At least he was decent about it. Not sure he got used to it. Because at some point he just called up a gravel quarry and asked if we could pop in there and toss rocks into our pickup truck. (Dave, famously, likes to “knock a job out,” whereas I am a fiddle-farter.) Doggone if the quarry operator, who had never had such a request, thought maybe we could, and we drove up there and checked in and he sent us to a remote portion of the property and we started lobbing in as much basalt as we thought we could safely drive home. The quarry operator looked at our haul and said, Hmm, how about ten bucks, does that sound fair? And we thought it did, and in fact we came back at least three more times, because I really, really like rock paths. At some point the quarry guy must have heard from a lawyer or something because he turned the spigot off, but at that point I was pretty much done.

It takes a while to put a nice rock-lined path together, particularly if you aren’t shaping the rocks in any way, and aren’t real strong, and have standards. You sit on your haunches and pick out one rock after another and turn it every which way until you find one that fits just right. The right one goes in chonk and it makes you so very happy. I do not know why I enjoy this so much but some part of my brain was set up to be a teeny tiny mason. I like to see things go chonk.

It feels a lot like writing, for me. I can toss off a sentence with the rest of them but I’m always revisiting it and trying out different verbs and turning them this way and that until something goes chonk.

    “Soon, all over town, we were seeing the improbable new style phenomenon called the muffin-top.” Nope.

My rock walls aren’t professional-looking,but they’re still pleasing to the eye, and so satisfying to build that I don’t care how long they take. They’re not built to be walked on, but try telling a four-year-old that. Especially the first ones I made, when I’d put in a rock with no solid base at all because it fit so well with the next one over, and I’d back-fill it with dirt and strategic pebbles and hope it wouldn’t pop out, but of course it eventually did. Later I worked harder at using good solid rocks with a fat base and those have stayed put better. 

    “Soon, all over town, people were perching size-eighteen buttocks on top of size-twelve jeans like their pants were an ass pedestal.” Nope.

This spring I decided to cut in a new path. It’s going all right. But it’s a lot harder because the rocks I have left over are all the rocks that didn’t work out the first time. They don’t have good flat facets, or the shape is wrong, or there are too many roundy bits, or things stick out. It’s like putting a jigsaw puzzle together when pieces are missing and a third of them were swapped out for Parcheesi pawns. Or like having an old brain that won’t supply the right word when you need it. But I’ve got time. I intend to prevail, however long it takes.

    “Soon, great rolling cumulonimbus mounds of flesh were thundering out of pants all over town.”