When I’m working on a freelance story, my office looks like a disaster area. There are two computers running and one of them will have ten or twelve browsers open. Books are all over the floor with handwritten notes stuck between the pages. There’s information in my phone, too, usually in the form of images I’ve taken from my forensic research. This weekend, that included the Maine Historical Society and a flower show, both in Portland, and then a half-mile hike into a quarry in North Jay.
Into this mix, throw a few existential ruminations. Questions like “how does our culture find equilibrium between technology and spirituality” and “how do we rescue ourselves from the soul-killing nature of automation and technology?” Maybe “does it even matter?”
Fortunately, I’m researching granite and thinking about the stones of antiquity. Patrick Perus, CEO of Canadian stone company, Polycor, said in a September 16, 2016 video announcement of the company’s acquisition of Rock of Ages and Swenson Granite, “stone has been a modern product since the time of Jesus Christ.”
Polycor now owns the North Jay granite quarry. “North Jay White” was the stone used to build Grant’s Tomb in New York City, the Portland (ME) City Hall, and the Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company building in Philadelphia, as well as the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston Maine. Legend has it that the Basilica was built with 515 train car loads of granite.
George Otis Smith, in the introduction to T. Nelson Dale’s 1907 book The Granites of Maine, wrote “Areally, granite is perhaps the most important rock in Maine. Slates, schists, sandstones, and limestones of various types occur in the different sections of the State, but the mounts and hills of the interior and the islands and headlands of the coast for the most part all exhibit slopes and cliffs of massive granite.”
New Hampshire isn’t the only “granite state.”
When you think about these ancient stones in the grander scheme of things, most of our daily worries are insignificant.
The following video, also available on the Polycor website, was particularly profound to me. In this short piece, Swenson Granite Company’s Chairman of the Board Kurt Swenson talks about the bittersweet nature of his family business’s demise.
“It outlives us. Granite has eternal life, if you look at it that way,” said Swenson. “ I’m on my way out. This is going to be here forever.”