Thursday, November 8, 2012

Set in Stone: Completing the Family Cobble Patio

I finished the cobble patio in late September. My final design varied from my original plan for a couple of reasons. I had envisioned a four pointed star but as work progressed I struggled to come up with a reason for a western point. The eastern point was obvious, it pointed at the house and so was the way home. If you want another beer, you headed east. And the cobbles weren't the best thing to put a picnic table on. I also admitted that perhaps the romance of setting cobbles had some limits. I substituted much easier to lay large squares of cut stone.

Fire is the centre of the patio. A fixed, unending circle, providing life supporting heat and light, the fire is the love between my wife, Joy, and I. Without it there wouldn't be much point to anything else in the circle. Much of what brings meaning to my life wouldn't even exist without this fire.

The Polaris point addressed my own fascination with the night sky. I enhanced this quadrant by infilling with black, a crescent moon and the Big Dipper. The red cobble outlines mark the sunrise and sunset of the summer solstice. I thought about adding equivalents for the winter solstice but figured they would be under a metre of snow during their time of relevance so let it go. The quadrant also speaks to my affection for my far away sky daughter, Celeste.

The home quadrant is a metaphor of the Yukon's cultural diversity. It includes shards of Italian clay planters, volcanic pumice from the Yukon River shallows below Robert Service campground, a large flat slate from the top of Grey Mountain carried out by hiking group friends, a set of colourful rocks from the McQueston River where my son, Andrew, and I launched our Magician's Nephew river tour of spring, 1992 and the CBC mug I won for a story about my Siberian auntie. The coffee mugs are especially attractive to the two little girls from next door who regularly dig them up to see what's in them. I plan to add a "cache" of goodies to the mugs for next summer's explorations. Surely the natural and cultural diversity of our home is something that should be enjoyed and shared.

The southerly point is actually a bearing of 220 degrees True North, a line connecting Whitehorse with Christchurch, New Zealand, the home of our children, Stephen and Erin, and new grandchild, Hector. The point marker is a heavy ceramic electrical insulator which Stephen and I wrestled off a recalcitrant broken fence post abandoned beside the road. What odd ways we stay connected - Blog, Facebook, Mother's emails, your emails, Skype, occasional  visits - each offering snatches of a full lived reality, each disconnected from the other, yet all speaking to what is going on and how we doing.

If I understood how to manage these I'd probably keep my blog much more up to date. Instead I have a backlog of great ideas and experiences, some eventually get posted, most just drifting off like the wake ripples behind a canoe. In the same way we each have our own lives and they are full. We share what is interesting, new or meaningful and let the bulk of the routine that envelopes us become as invisible to others as it is to us.

Winter arrived earlier this week. Today the patio is under 25cm of snow. The wind plate in the fire pit is still visible but the yard has turned to a smooth white surface that will lighten our winter nights by reflecting moon, stars and aurora.