A Monument to Love

Inspiration, gut wrenching, tear jerking inspiration surrounds us every day; the trick to find it is to stay open.

It has been some time since I wrote my last blog. The activities at VTica have kept me in the gallery. Unfortunately I grow a little stale behind four walls. I need to be out and about encountering life. I am happiest on the road, open to whatever may happen.

The other day driving on the back roads of Southern Vermont I came upon a most remarkable site. Tooling along RT 30 just south of the Stratton access road, I became mesmerized by the morning light dappling the gently rippling brook. Just as I was about to direct my eyes back to the road, a field of stone cairns rose in view from the riverbed. Now I'm not talking one or two, I'm talking maybe a hundred or so in all shapes and sizes.

My car came to a screeching halt, pulling off onto a gravel turn-around. Making my way across RT 30 I found a gnarly dirt path that led down to the brook.  There I stood with gold sandals on, not proper attire for wading in the gently flowing water. I stood there in amazement and just took it in. Some cairns were small, but most large, cleverly constructed, precariously perched between the rushing waters.

Who? Why? When?  Was it a group of high school kids making their mark, or the community coming out to have some good clean family fun? All sorts of questions were running through my mind and no one was in sight to offer clarification.

The next day I returned to the site with camera in hand and attempted to document my discovery. A few passers-by also stopped to snap a cell phone photo or two. The follow day I dragged Robert back to the brook, explaining, "You are about to see the coolest thing ever!" There I stood in the brook, this time with proper wading shoes on, carefully maneuvering the slippery river rocks, meandering amongst the cairns. I was equally captivated my third visit and even Robert was sufficiently impressed.

The following day my cairn discovery was still talking to me, it was calling me back for yet another visit. At times like this, I don't ask questions, I just follow my gut. I thought this time I would visit in the late afternoon so that the setting sun would provide a perfect photo op.

I arrived around 5:30. With wading shoes on, I once again walked along the river bed taking in the magic of the waning light. There in the center of the brook was what appeared to be a boy piling rocks. I walked up to him and asked if he knew what was going on with all the cairns. He responded, "Yep, I made them."  "All of them?" I asked, He responded, "Pretty much."

So my first question was, "Why?" He stood up, wiped his wet hands on his shorts, lowered his head, paused for a moment and said, "My dog died a few months back and I needed to do something for him." He went on to say, "I'm not the type of kid that goes home and plays video games or enjoys wasting time vegetating in front of the computer."

So every day for the past few months he has been coming to the brook, for 2 to 5 hours at a stretch, building cairns, as a memorial for his beloved Bull Mastiff, General. There I stood in the river, as the water rushed against my legs, weeping like a blubbering fool, reminded of the recent loss of my own beloved Newfoundland, another extra-large, strong, sensitive breed capable of melting your heart. Now, it all made perfect sense to me.

This strapping young boy's name is Grant. He is 25 years old. He has a job working at Stratton Mountain doing light construction and painting, and when days end, he heads home, feeds his pigs, and then heads straight to the brook. I'm sure that was the time he devoted to General, hiking in the woods and swimming in the local ponds with his canine buddy. Now he is left with just memories of his gentle giant. Every day, with the energy of a young man, he immortalizes his dog in the most unique and heartfelt way.

Wiping the tears from my eyes, I thanked him for all his inspirational work. I explained how his story touched me and how his cairns brought delight and smiles to all that encountered them. As I climbed up the muddy bank of the brook, I glanced back at Grant. There he was, crouched in the water, searching for the next perfect memorial stone.

This is the true definition of, a labor of love. The creek is his canvas, the rocks are his paint, and everyday he tends to his broken heart, by lovingly constructing countless monuments to General. Creativity heals.
You gotta love this boy!

Thank you Grant and thank you General for your profound inspiration.

Live in color,


What did you think of this article?

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  • 7/15/2013 10:16 PM Lynette Carsten wrote:
    So beautiful! Thank you for sharing!
    Reply to this
  • 7/16/2013 6:39 AM Joan wrote:
    Have missed your writings and this is such an incredible story of love. And yes I cried.
    Reply to this
  • 7/16/2013 6:46 AM Nena wrote:
    This is a truly inspirational story. For those who wonder how "art expressions" are represented every day in every day life, a trip to the river bed is essential. Thank you Grant, General and Abby.
    Reply to this
  • 7/16/2013 7:16 AM Robin aka Gotham Girl wrote:
    What an amazing experience! Tears are flowing...
    Reply to this
  • 7/16/2013 8:09 PM Karen wrote:
    I am so happy to have stumbled oh this post! I have driven by this spot numerous times, and noticed that each time there are more of these rock towers. I love the story about Grant - what an amazing way to honor a beloved pet.
    Reply to this
  • 7/17/2013 8:13 AM Mary Cardel wrote:
    Thank you Abby for solving the mystery. Everytime I pass these sculptures I wonder what artist created them, where did he get his inspiration. I love them.
    Reply to this
  • 7/17/2013 9:31 AM Kitchen Ninja wrote:
    What an incredibly loving tribute to a best friend. Thank you for sharing Grant's story and work -- I'm going to spread it around.
    Reply to this
  • 7/17/2013 9:50 AM naomimgruer wrote:
    What a beautiful tribute to a loving companion!
    Reply to this
  • 7/17/2013 10:30 AM CosmicMiami wrote:
    Can you give GPS coords to this site? I am traveling there next week with the family and would love to show them this site. We built several when in North Georgia last year. You can email me directly if you like so as not to reveal too much information to those who have bad intentions. Thanks for sharing.
    Reply to this
    1. 7/17/2013 12:49 PM VTica News wrote:
      I would love to provide the GPS coords but there is a sad ending to this story. A new blog will be sent out tonight with an explanation.
      Reply to this
  • 7/17/2013 5:26 PM Heidi Brackenridge wrote:
    After reading Abby's beautifully written blog post, which my sister sent me, I clicked the "like" link and scrolled through the appreciative comments until the last one about a "sad ending" to this story brought me up short...I don't know this young man, Grant but am hoping all is well! People like him lend renewed faith in the beauty of human beings. With apologies to Emily Dickinson, "Hope is the thing with fur" [who] loves us unconditionally.
    Reply to this
  • 7/17/2013 7:00 PM Shan Marie wrote:
    Thank you Mother Earth Father Sky for providing a place to heal the soul...Grant I Love You for your Courage,Strength and Hope!
    Reply to this
  • 7/18/2013 11:14 AM Bruce Blanchette wrote:
    It's hard sometimes to understand what motivates the worst in human nature.

    As you know, traditionally, cairns have often served as markers… in the mountains for example, piles of rocks serve to direct a person along the correct path. They can also serve as memorials or tombstones, much as this young man's labors served to do. It is clear, metaphorically, that the perpetrator of this destruction is a lost soul who has destroyed his own path to goodness as well as the rocks he has tumbled.

    This is in reality but a minor tragedy for Grant whose creative spirit still lives in the meditative process of his act as well as the stones which have simply returned to the earth from where they came. EVERYTHING made by man in this world, be it the Pyramids of Egypt, the Mona Lisa, or cairns along a stream are transitory and moving toward oblivion. In the end, Mother nature will override all works of we mere mortals… so do not weep for the loss of intentionally transitory art, even in it's short life it did what it was supposed to do.
    Reply to this
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