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a story of stone

February 23, 2009
Rhododendron Pavilion San Francisco Arboretum by stonemason Edwin Hamilton

Rhododendron Pavilion San Francisco Arboretum by stonemason Edwin Hamilton


Yesterday we went to San Francisco’s Strybing Arboretum to check out some beautiful stones that our friend Edwin Hamilton has made into sculptures there.

 The stones are from a Spanish monastery built in 1188 by Cistercian monks. In 1930, William Randolf Hearst had the monastery dismantled and shipped to San Francisco with the intent of recreating the building here. The stones were left in crates in Golden Gate park for many years, waiting, each stone with its identification as to where it belonged in the original monastery. Financial troubles prevented the project from ever being realized and eventually the identifying inscriptions wore off preventing the stones from ever being reassembled.

Rhododendron Pavilion

Rhododendron Pavilion

Some of them have been given to Cistercian monks in California to build with. Others have been used in various landscaping projects in the park. And so far, there are two beautiful public sculptures in the arboretum made from these old stones by stonemason Edwin Hamilton: The Rhododendron Pavilion and the patio outside the Helen Crocker Russell Library of Horticulture.

The structures have a spiritual resonance when you step into them. The Rhododendron Pavilion, where we were yesterday, has been crafted with the stones themselves in mind, not merely used for a pavilion. Each piece is in its correct place; each piece relates to the next, each piece invites us to see their past, their present and the idea that original intention is not always the future.

Lukas was drawn toward the stones

Lukas was drawn in by the stones

Lukas delighted in the stones, and was drawn in by them, literally. He also poured gravel through his hands, again and again loving the texture of rock. He tried to eat the gravel and he tried to eat the Spanish stones too, in true toddler form, wanting to taste and sense the place not with his mind—not yet—but with his body and most obviously with his spirit.

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