The chimney lay exactly where our neighbor said it would, deep in a hollow flanked on either side by steep hills of red clay. Its top lay tumbled backwards, stone in piles covered in thick matts of moss and lichen, yellow daffodils poking their coy heads up through last falls parade of maple leaves. A scant few stones remained where the hearth would have been, the heart of the house being the last which remained to speak of its presence. Stately maple and poplar trees spread their buttressed roots where the kitchen and bedrooms would have been, ruffed grouse nesting under wild rose bushes where a mother had kneaded biscuit dough for hungry children. It is an odd feeling, standing among the humus and rubble of a life long gone, straining to imagine how the house had been, how the mother sounded calling out to her children from the porch, the wind chimes sang in the breeze, tiny feet ran and giggled, and fires cracked and popped in this very chimney, in this very home, in this very hollow so long ago.
Sweat rolled down my back as I stooped to roll back the matt of moss to reveal thousands of tiny chisel marks pecked across the flat surface of a sandstone slab perhaps 3 feet wide and 4 inches thick. Who had been the man to make these marks? Where was he born, in what year, where did he work, and did he love this stone as I do?
Immediately the joy, reverence and wander replaced the heat, sweat, and pain from the arduous trail blazing through a sea of wrathful briers and rose bushes, groping with talons outstretched for any gap in our clothing. As I warmed my back with the solid weight of each stone being carried to our awaiting mule, I felt without doubt the most solid connection to this land, this earth, and the true virtue of building our home with our hands. Perhaps someday someone will wander how our house looked, how we laughed loved and lived, as they gaze at these same precious lovely stones of time.