Saturday, November 21, 2009

He Breaks Stones with a Passion

He Breaks Stones with a Passion
and Is in Love with the Woods

Landscape architect and stonemason Jon Piasecki, who is also a contributor to Orion Magazine, is the fascinating subject of a wonderful new film shot, directed, and edited by Hal Clifford and Jason Houston and produced by Orion: "Stone River: The Passion of Jon Piasecki".

"Stone River" is the story of a project Piasecki undertook to build, entirely by himself, a stone "river" that wends its way deeply in and through forested land owned by the project's patrons. The film gives us a glimpse of how Piesecki spends his days in back-breaking labor to "make a path through the woods."

Piasecki doesn't just break and move huge stone; he thinks about it. And in thinking about stone, Piasecki reveals that the stone river he's making is no ordinary swath of nature, no naturally demarcated expression of nature's power. Rather, it represents and literally requires the physical engagement Piasecki says he needs, that we all need, to get back in touch with nature.

Watching this film does exactly what the 42-year-old Piasecki intends: it slows your breathing down, it gets inside you. It makes you think.

Piasecki is, by his own admission, "in love with the woods" and "in love with this project." He speaks passionately about the woods, calling them "a magical world". He describes the Stone River project as a way "to show how unbelievably gorgeous that magical world is." With each step in the project — from the unearthing and breaking of stone, to the placing and fitting of stone, to the sweeping of stone once in place — Piasecki aims to "tie in to whatever is around" him, to reclaim his relationship with nature, nature that, he says, "is being forgotten." He'd "go bonkers", he adds, if he did not have the woods and the stone to work.

The "magical world" in which Piasecki labors every day, the place where he "shapes shadow lines between stones", is not, he maintains, at risk, environmentalists' claims to the contrary. "People," he suggests, "make the assumption that they're in control of nature. That's a big, big mistake." The forests, he observes, will go on long after we've disappeared. What is at risk, he says, is our cultural humanity, our ability to make something worthwhile and valuable enough, important enough, "to touch other people's hearts."

Someone who is able to set stone "really, really well", Piasecki aims through the project "to be phenomenally world-changing".

Take a look. Could you break stone, set stone, speak about stone with the passion of Jon Piasecki?

Note: You can access the film using any of the following links:, or

Piasecki's architectural landscape firm is Golden Bough, in Housatonic, Massachusetts. Visit the firm's Website here and be sure to take a look at the images of the indoor and outdoor work—it is the creative impulse of an artist.

1 comment:

Ned said...

I enjoyed my imaginary walk along Jon's path. My grandfather was a stone mason. Many of his retaining walls, stream bridges, and road supports are still in use. These structures were built by my grandfather's company under President Roosevelt's WPA mandates.When I was a boy I thought these strong, elegant edifices would last forever.An understandable view from a bullet proof being who had all the time in the world. Of course, nature is extracting its due from both body and structure. I suppose the spirit remains, especially when I listen to my young niece talk with enthusiasm about her class of grade school pupils and about her shinny new classroom-made possible by a President who has no doubt that(with a little stimulus) there's no limit to what the future holds.