Building a Stone Cairn

The sound of water gently trickling over a bed of stones. The smell of rich earth mixed with fallen leaves and branches. The feel of damp air in the cool shade of the trees. The warmth of a patch of sunlight reaching down through the tree tops.  "Let's erect a cairn as a marker to commemorate how special this place is to us, this place we call Maple Grove. Let's erect it to the glory of God and give thanks for all His blessings."

Cairns are man-made heaps of stones that have been erected all over the world since ancient times.  Varying in size and complexity, they serve as landmarkers.  Some are built to mark graves, summit tops, or trail junctions.  Others mark the location of historical or memorable events.  A carefully built cairn will stand perfectly balanced without the use of cements or adhesives.

In Old Testament times, God's people built altars of stones to mark the places where God rescued them or performed mighty acts. We built this cairn at Maple Grove several years ago as a monument and testimony to the greatness and goodness of our God. It serves as a memorial for us to recount the ways He has blessed us and to testify to His mercy and faithfulness. We share this witness with our children and grandchildren and with friends and guests who come to visit.

"When your children ask their fathers in times to come,
'What do these stones mean?' then you shall let your children know . . . 
that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear
the LORD your God forever." (Joshua 4:21-24)

To build a cairn that will last:

As we were doing some excavating and landscaping on our property, we gathered up stones that we found and sorted them according to size. To build a cairn, find a large, level stone to use as the base.  Set it on a level piece of ground.  

Look for flat, even stones, and stack a few smaller ones on top of the base, making sure each stone sits level on the stone beneath it.  If a stone isn't completely level, alternate the thicknesses to build up a level surface.  Continue stacking stones, varying the sizes.  Make sure each stone is balanced before adding another one.  It's like finding the center of gravity in the stack.  If any of the stones doesn't sit solid but, rather, has a rocking motion, the cairn will not stay erect for long.  When working on your cairn, be sure to wear heavy shoes (definitely not sandals) in case any stones fall.  And they will probably fall a few times before you get it right.  Be aware of this possibility, and be ready to jump out of the way.  If you get the cairn balanced and steady, it will stand for a long, long time.

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  1. Meredith/GreenCircleGroveJune 21, 2013 at 8:30 AM

    Thank you! I've been wondering how best to use some of the many rocks we have here. Your instructions are great, and I guess I know what I'll be doing this weekend!

    1. Thank you Meredith. I can't wait to see pics of your cairn! ~Katie