Hail to the Sicilian stonemasons!

DSCN2284I’m laughing my butt off reading Marie Manilla’s The Patron Saint of Ugly, about a character who is both Appalachian and Sicilian, like me.

I do not know much about my forebears from that spiky island, but I know that some of them were stonemasons. And behold, Manilla’s novel features Sicilian stonemasons!

Bob jokes about my affinity for rocks and its origins. OK, yeah, I admit I have a thing about rocks.  I love to seek out ones I can pretty much lift, pry them out of a construction site with the crowbar I keep in my car at all times, carefully load them into the trunk, floorboards, and seats of my tiny car, and then arrange and rearrange them in my yard.

Which brings us to a question:

How many rocks can an out-of-shape woman in her fifties, with a sedentary job, rheumatoid arthritis, and no cartilage in her knees, carry home from a construction site?


This many:


and this many:

DSCN0419Plus this many:

DSCN0418And also these: DSCN0582-001In my former garden on Hambrick Avenue, I scavenged, hauled, and arranged these:

DSCN0916Also these:

back patio w columbine


DSCN0928In fact, the step-like run of rocks pictured at the top of this page owes its solidity to my ancestors. It’s my most recent construction, and it’s also the best. Because I finally got a clue.

Did I refer to Youtube videos on the subject? That would have been wise. But no. I was all high on endorphins from lifting a bunch of rocks. I was not going to take a break and go check out Youtube, get sucked into the internet, and perhaps never emerge.

Did I obtain a book on dry stone masonry? Again, that would have indeed been wise, but again, sadly, no. I was too lazy to go to the library and too cheap to go to the bookstore.

Did a compassionate neighbor give me a few pointers? No.

I asked my ancestors, and then listened for an answer.

And they told me the secret:

Lay each stone so it rests on two other stones.

That’s all there is to it. [Luckily they said this in English, not Sicilian].

The stones up that 45-plus-degree slope are so solid I can walk up them like steps. I  walk up and down them many times a day when I’m out there gardening.

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