Visual Art 3-31-2003

Rock Piles

Sam Spiczka, sculptor, sent in this wonderful piece after catching the request for readers' thoughts on place in the archives. Should you feel so inspired, do likewise--just keep it under 300 words.


In the corner of nearly every field can be found a rock pile. Fields tend to be rectangular in shape so when a tractor makes a round, it leaves the very corners untouched. Stones picked from the freshly tilled spring earth are deposited there. Over time, a mound begins to develop, tall grasses grow freely and small brush begins to sprout. Tunnels open up under the settling pile, housing rabbits and fox, among others. The seasons pass, new generations are born and die, yet this pile of stone grows. If the field lies fallow, the rock pile is patient. The bones of small animals lie bleached in the sun. Rodents gnaw on them for calcium. The small furrows cut into the bone mimic the rows carved into the field. A memory of everything that happens on the land can be found there.

Climbing around these rockpiles as a child, I never knew what I would find. Then I left, only to return. Before I realized it, these markers had grown into my work. I began creating sculptures of fieldstone and mysterious, bone-like fragments held up over the land on a weathered wood post. I called them “cairns,” which I knew from elsewhere to be a memorial of stacked stones. Not realizing until now that a memorial is not something formal and distant, but something that grows naturally from the earth and human hands. My work has re-introduced me to a landscape that was never truly absent.