Me and Mike

Phase One is complete.

My rock wall, the back wall for my planned shack, is done. Seven feet high, twelve feet wide, two feet thick.

It wasn’t so hard to do – pile up a row of old foundation stones, slop a bunch of mortar over them, wait a couple days for the mortar to get hard, then do it again, until it was as high as I could reasonably place the rocks.

It should have taken only a week or so, but making a living got in the way, so the job lasted substantially longer.

Then the real problem showed up. As an amateur stone mason, I didn’t know what I was doing, so when it came to mortar I kind of leaned into the “more is better” philosophy. Plus, I’m kind of a slob by nature, so I had a huge amount of cleaning and touch up work to do.

As I assembled my tools, I couldn’t help thinking about how much I must resemble Michelangelo when he was preparing to do all the finish work on the Pieta. I’m sure he had fun whacking off big chunks of marble until everything that didn’t look like it belonged was gone, but afterward he had weeks and months of sanding and polishing.

You might say, “But Brent, there may be some slight difference between your work and Michelangelo’s.”

Of course it’s different. Michelangelo’s life was a lot easier. He was working with high quality marble and I’m dealing with whatever fieldstone great grandpa tripped over. He also had a pope bankrolling him – my project is totally self-funded.

He did have to do everything by hand, while I have all the stuff you can acquire by feeding a 50-year addiction to power tools. But don’t tell me that Mike wouldn’t have grabbed onto a hammer drill or angle grinder if they’d been available, and if five hundred years ago there had been, you know, electricity.

An advantage he had over me (other than being a genius) was that from an early age, he understood that when the job looks done, it’s probably only at the half-way mark. I’m still learning that one.

I like to say it’s because I was a farmer, that no matter what I did there was always some kind of time deadline, whether it was a thunderstorm or just winter. To embrace the idea that it takes as long as it takes is a heavy lift for me. I’m trying, though. The first use of the rocks lasted 125 years. I’m hoping to match that.

I’m a bit fascinated by the saying “the devil is in the details.” The dictionary definition is “The details of a plan, while seeming insignificant, may contain hidden problems that threaten its overall feasibility.” I can vouch for that one. I’ve had many a good project run aground on some unforeseen details.

But what’s fascinating about the phrase is that the saying in its original form, translated from German, is “God is in the detail.”

I like that even better. In fact, I love it. If you’re reading this in a newspaper, take a moment to look up a picture of Michelangelo’s Pieta. My suggestion would be to view a closeup of Mary’s face. That’s a piece of rock, people. There’s a lot of details and a reasonable person could conclude God is in every one of them.

I spent one day cleaning off spilled mortar and repairing other mistakes before I moved on to Phase Two. I think it looks okay.

Me and Mike. Practically soul brothers.

Copyright 2022 Brent Olson