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Cairn Gardens: a conversation in stone (4/3/23)

Updated: Apr 7, 2023


Revisiting an earlier post's theme of the joy and meaning we find in 'acquaintance friendships,' or what Ralph Waldo Emerson called "a certain cordial exhilaration."


R, and his dog R, have been meaningful friends of mine in the woods for some years now. A couple of weeks ago, I got a text from him (R, not R):










The next evening after telework - post "spring forward" and so grateful for it - I made it to the woods again. I remembered that Thursday was R's one drive-into-work day, so reckoned I wouldn't see him.


(The trails are "Under Reconstruction" for our "Enjoyment" per the county's signs. Most of my woods acquaintances are horrified that they are smoothing out and re-positioning many of our natural paths -- worn by humans and many other animals -- made of dirt, stones, leaves, scat and shrooms. We are treading more lightly, lately, around landscaping equipment.)


I climbed in awe of R's new builds. Then this text popped:

He'd caught the sun's set through one of his genius sculptures with spaces in the middle. We were in the woods at the same time, then, but not at the same place. And in a way, I loved seeing this pic more than seeing them.


A few days later, I found at least a half-dozen new stacks.








His note that "one has disappeared" soon meant "several have disappeared," and we both realized that a human must have been knocking down some of the sculptures. The weather had been unusually calm so far. Even deer would not be tall enough to topple the ones built on tree stumps, if a deer were inclined to try, up on hind legs.


(Realizing now we both assumed the knocker-down was a "he.")




We carried on.



Just. Thrilled, delighted, enlivened, even healed by all this. It's been 2 weeks since R's first alert about his new trail art. Over the weekend, our region endured the severe storms and 70-mph winds that have caused so much damage and heartbreak across the Midwest and South this spring. I ventured out to find many cairns still standing, but just as many knocked over by air or hand.


I've got a few days off this "Holy Week" and plan to negotiate the sleek and slippery new paths. The County's re-trailing is part of a plan that will allow bikes, and motorbikes? along the narrow horse, dog and person paths. Paths now merging in many places. Not so sure I like the idea of adolescent hormones at high speed colliding with slower mammals, reptiles and other species, for everyone's sake.


My friend's beauties feel to me like vax-and-boosters against the fractures and losses of life to come. We have run into each other in-person and talked about the state of the stones; "ripped" R usually recognizes me first. But whether we're there in-person together, seen or unseen, or there on completely different days and hours, the feeling of connection remains.


We're having a conversation. Look! a new one on a path that's ribboned off "Caution - Do Not Cross." Maybe I was the builder there. Maybe the woman in the purple shirt. Maybe the smiling guy on the bike. Maybe one of the landscaping crew. It feels homey, to me.


I know I took a phone-pic of 4-pawed R just as we were all shutting down in March of 2020. That R is an indeterminate mix that clearly includes pit-bull. His vet says, "that dog is ripped," and it's true. I've never seen a more muscular, athletic or enthusiastic leaper of a dog. (R tells me that R gets home daily with multiple bleeding scrapes. All the thorns he bounds through, smiling all the way.) When I did a phone-pic search for "dog," none came up for specific R. My phone did find this, though, thinking it was a dog. So I think I'll just leave this post right here:


Love, friendship, exhilaration, and community to all of you. Thanks for reading,

Your muddy-pawed Muffin

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