2016-08-11 / Editorial

The Granite Kiss

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by Melanie Taylor Coombs

When I was a little girl there was an elderly man who lived next door to my family. He had a rough shed attached to his house; the interior walls of the shed were rough hewn lumber. The glass window panes were a bit wavy and there were definitely dust motes playing in the air. The afternoon sunlight slanted in just a way that it played on the hundreds and hundreds of old and colorful bottles covering every surface of the room.

Rainbows of color refracted and reflected on all surfaces in the room. Mr. Morin wasn’t the most pleasant man in the world and I was afraid of his very old, rather large, rather mangy dog, Duke. But, I would voluntarily walk past the scary dog to see the amazing collection of antique bottles.

I was pretty young at the time so other than Duke, rainbow colors and gruff Mr. Morin, I really don’t remember much. But, I do remember the stories Mr. Morin told about how he gathered his collection. Apparently most old farmsteads used one corner of their land as a family dump. Consistently it was where two old stone walls met. So, on Saturday mornings he would drive around to abandoned farms and follow the stone walls until he found the appropriate place to dig. The refuse often included used bottles and this is where he developed his collection.

Most New Englanders have heard others say “can you image people moving all these rocks by HAND?!” Here is an excellent opportunity to learn more about the history and construction of the stone walls that crisscross most of our beautiful landscape.

On Thursday, September 1st at 6:30 renowned expert, Kevin Gardner will be at McArthur Library to discuss stone walls.

For more than forty years he has been a stone wall builder in a family business widely known for traditional New England stonework, particularly for historic restoration of antique structures.

In 2001, Kevin published The Granite Kiss: Traditions and Techniques of Building New England Stone Walls.

He has also published poetry, songs, and essays, including “Land of Stone”, an examination of several historic sites in the Monadnock Region, in the 2006 anthology Where the Mountain Stands Alone.

The Granite Kiss has become the definitive book about the history and technique of stone walls. He explains how and why New England came to acquire thousands of miles of stone walls, how their styles emerged and changed over time and the significance to our landscape.

There will be a generous question and answer period during which listeners are encouraged to bring up specific projects or problems from their properties.

Along the way, Kevin occupies himself building a miniature wall or walls on a tabletop, using tiny stones from a five-gallon bucket. He often brings along his collection of books about stonework and copies of The Granite Kiss for sale.

This event promises to be memorable. As always, library programs are free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

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