Dedication to job written in stone

By Andrew Bonallack -
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Stonemason Michael Dunn and his wife June are nearing the completion of a 70-m stone wall on High St.
Stonemason Michael Dunn and his wife June are nearing the completion of a 70-m stone wall on High St.

THESE days we are far too used to seeing teams of builders and construction workers descending on a plot of land and getting something going pretty fast.

I should know - it was my background before journalism. And I'm not saying subdivisions and new builds lack standards. Far from it. But it is immensely satisfying to see an outstanding example of craftsmanship in the form of Michael and June Dunn's stone wall construction on High St in Masterton.

I've watched it grow every time I've come into Masterton on my morning commute. At first, I was looking around each day for the "gang" of men who would undoubtedly have the wall sorted in a couple of weeks. It took me a while to realise that it was effectively a one-man operation.

For me, there are two elements to it. I remember reading a story about Japanese samurai Miyamoto Musashi, who according to legend works alone and tirelessly on a small valley to convert it to agriculture, while locals watched the slow and single-minded transformation. In Japan, it is considered that spiritual enlightenment is gained through the perfection of a task, even if the task is simplistic.

I like the concept of the single focus, the idea of starting a task and finishing it, and I suspect this resonates with many of those driving along High St these last couple of months.

It's a substantial wall, yet it starts with the lifting of the first stone, and it will end with the placing of the last stone. In between, it is simply technique.

Secondly, what a technique it is. I'm used to the idea of rotating lasers, theodolites and automatic levels helping me define the precision of a structure. Mr Dunn has a straight edge and a spirit level - and the wall is damn near perfect. It looks amazing. Somehow, it isn't just river rock piled on top of one another. There's a rightness to the appearance that's difficult to explain, but speaks to Mr Dunn's years of stonemasonry.

There was one morning when vandals had obviously had a go during the night, dislodging four or five stones. But Mr Dunn simply carried on.

We owe Mr Dunn and his a wife a thank you for reminding us that all journeys start with the first step (or stone), and keeping your mind on what you're doing will, in the end, produce results.

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