I grew up with an appreciation for stone. It didn't happen because we lived in a stone house or because there were great rocks scattered on the landscape (as there are in Upper Ojai). It happened because my father would return from digging in the garden on the weekends (for many years we grew almost all our own vegetables) with shards of flint that he told us were stone-age skin scrapers. We lived in a part of the world, southern England, where early man had begun his precarious existence some half a million years ago surrounded by mega-fauna. There was a lot of skin to scrape.

By the time I was a teen, we had quite a collection of scrapers, arrow heads and hand axes most of which, since they were retrieved at spade depth - say 12"-18" - were probably from the Mesolithic period (around 10,000 to 5500 years ago) at the end of the last ice age and the beginning of the Holocene era.

Beyond this subterranean storehouse of stone-age tools, and at quite another scale, Britain has a treasure of megalithic monuments. I was fortunate to visit Stonehenge when it was still surrounded by farm-land and you could stop the car on the A344 and wander down the slope to the derilict monument and leave greasy fingerprints on the stones. Now it seems it has been privatized, and the experience is distinctly less 'hands-on' and more theme park - it has been co-opted by Britain's Heritage Industry where the authentic has given way to the branded. In the mid sixties, you could stop at villages built amidst stone circles, such as Avebury in Wiltshire, and drink at a pub while considering the wonders of neolithic construction.

These circles and henges along with barrows (tumuli or burial mounds), mounds, cairns and standing stone alignments are a part of Europe's shamanic landscape. I have already mentioned something of the Chumash spiritual geography (which includes, at least, Mount Pinos, the Painted Rock in Carrizo Plain, and the Channel Islands off of Ventura). The skein of connections that linked these and (presumably) so many other places in the Chumash world were both prosaic trade routes and spirit paths - something akin perhaps to the European notion, developed by the antiquarian and amateur archeologist Alfred Watkins (1855-1935), of ley lines.

Ley lines are straight lines between spiritual 'hot-spots' marked by stone alignments and many are undoubtedly spurious. However, the standing stones (menhirs) at Carnac in northern France, in a variety of linear alignments stretching thousands of meters, bear material witness to the power of Neolithic geometries. The Chumash paid similar obeisance to the straight line; their trade routes and trails were invariably linear, eschewing the topographical convenience of switch-backs and the like. In this they reflected the Roman roads that marched through Europe with a singular focus on the flight path of the crow, and the supposed preferences of spirits who are universally perceived as traveling in straight lines. In Chinese feng-shui landscape divination, homes and ancestral tombs had to be protected from straight roads or other linear landscape features because troublesome spirits travelled along them and would bring bad luck.

By contrast, the intimate geographies of the entranced Chumash mind laid out in cave paintings - notably at the Painted Cave east of Goleta and the Painted Rocks on the Carrizo Plain - are webbed in sinuous lines resolved into an echo of the shamans's vision.

A contemporary artist referencing both the cairns and alignments of neolithic megaliths is Andy Goldsworth and he, arguably, materializes his own 'intimate geographies' in his smaller works with twigs, bark, grasses and reeds. His fascination with stone is evidenced in his egg-like cairns as well as his work with english wallers who traditionally, have crafted dry-stone walls and folds (or pens) but under Andy's direction juxtapose their native craft with the artist's environmental insertions - tree branches trapped in walls for instance, or a boulder (or cairn) corralled within a stone fold. This art depends on an availability of local stone and craftsmen to stack it. Both are in ample supply in England's northern sheep country.

Martha's Vineyard, that miraculous island of unique climate and bio-diversity, is also home to a dry-stack stone wall tradition and on a recent visit Lorrie and I became captivated by a particular technique called lace walls where holes exist in the fabric of the wall to allow the atlantic gales to blow through and thus reduce the lateral pressure on the structures.

We had over 200 tons of rocks stockpiled on the west meadow after completion of grading for our new house. Most were between refrigerator and microwave size and they were eventually carted away for road building. Left scattered around the building site were the larger car and SUV sized boulders, unearthed but too large to move very far. We spent a day directing the operator of a CAT 320D placing the stones on the ravaged site. His skill was superlative and he manoeuvered his machine and the rocks as though he was sailing a namesake piece of equipment, the Hobie Cat - the excavator up on one track and the rock hanging out as counterbalance in the bucket. Now his work has mostly disappeared under burgeoning chaparral, flush from a wet winter but the largest of the rocks, removed from the swimming pool site was placed under an oak that sits to the south of the house. Morning glory (Calystegia macrostegia) is starting to vine over it but its buttery yellow sandstone is still prominent and it is now a grave marker too, for our dog Derek who was buried in front of it some 6 months ago.

We considered building dry-stack walls, and in one scheme the west meadow was to be divided up into several folds for fruit trees, a vegetable garden and firewood. As we discovered, over our first year, the scale of the project we had already undertaken - the restoration of chaparral and the creation of areas of native meadow over those acres of the site that had been most impacted and disturbed by the grading - it became clear that we did not have the energy (or money) to pursue large scale dry-stack wall building. It may have been, as they say, a missed opportunity but the empty raised bed at the east end of the house is a salutary reminder of our limited resources.

In any case, there are a variety of traditions in the dry stacking of stone. How to choose? There are certainly Mexican and Italian masons locally and almost certainly British or Irish wallers who were the first to bring the craft to the United States. Now we have an amazing example of the Japanese tradition close by in Ventura. The Awatas, father and son, 14th and 15th generation masons were invited, with their Japanese team, to lead in the design and construction of two ramparts set beside a stairway in Serra Cross Park overlooking the Pacific. Along with local support crews they completed the work earlier this year, which used 300 tons of local stone, in nine days.

Garfield Smith kindly forwarded me a video, Stone on Stone (in process) for which his sister Sharon provided the music, that documents the building process. Local wallers customarily select rocks with at least two flat planes and their wall building involves a minimum of cutting and splitting. The Japanese team employ a more sophisticated technique which appears to rely completely on rock splitting and chiseling and yet the finished inclined planes of the ramparts seem like an entirely natural agglomeration of rocks. Those familiar with the culture will recognize this intense investment of effort in mimicking nature as typically Japanese.

Both forward facing walls of the ramparts as they project from the slope are anchored by 'hero stones' - particularly large specimens (refrigerator to small car) that traditionally demonstrate the resources of the community who have built the fortification. We have a few such stones scattered around the site awaiting their call to heroism. Such enoblement requires an availability of disposable resources. We are currently fully invested expressing our braggadocio through brush clearance.