Dear Matt—may I call you Matt? I walked into your painting today. I thought,

“Oh! I love this place! Purple mountains, hazy sky. I want to sit on that rock and gaze deep into your glass-like clearness.

I’d like to swim breaststroke across your surface, dive deep into your uncannily still waters, lie naked on a rock and sleep, awake to warm red wine and a book of poems.

I hate that you are a ruin, like me; too old and weary to fight the inevitable.

Not long ago, I stayed on a south Tuscan farm near a Roman quarry.

Each noon, the quarry set off dynamite, which frightened the dog.

She ran for the house to hide under the dining room table.

I thought of today’s quarry as Roman ruin 2,000 years later, like the tourist sites
I’d snapped photos of – hard-won stones tumbling down sacred hills, no longer holding up temples or securing forty-foot columns.

What did the original Romans use to bust up the rock
for their double-stone walls, for their aqueducts, for their saunas and their piazzas?

They used slaves and criminals,
whose hammers and chisels would not have frightened the dog.

However many times they, poor bony wretches, had to be beaten
to pry out of the earth a striated hard substance to make something of beauty.

Italy was full of sculptors and builders devoted to beauty made by men in the form of statues both male and female, baths and frescoed pools, walls and courtyards, bridges holding up all those roads leading to Rome.

The painting of the Roman Quarry that you did, Matt, is impressionistically real;
it invited me in—its sense of peace in original form, nature’s beauty, not yet man’s --
who certainly was happy he’d found what could enhance his land as it filled his coffers.

Your vision of the quarry was of the early days, right? 2-3,000 years ago? There were still trees and shrubs, clear water.

Today, the Roman quarry I know two hours north of Rome looks heavily bombarded, residue of many wars

but faithful in what it gives – big stones, boulders, rocks and gravel of all sizes:

The present architecture of the Emilia Romanga continues to use this solid hard earth, and because of it, you, Quarry, are no longer pretty like Matt’s version. You remain productive, a monument to something, to many things –

new buildings, gravel roads, skinny modern statues—
I salute your endurance, you solid chunk of earth unable to escape your fate.

And, Matt, I salute your sense of loveliness, remembrance, romance... a Roman Quarry in its youth, a haven of a spot, a heaven in all truth, with just a few mars
of greed promising worse to come…

They who saw great wealth in rocks were as cruel then to lesser humans who did their bidding, who gave and gave until death,

as it is now to our sense of how much the earth can give.

Your painting fulfills the longing for the beauty of the world and the beauty that is in,
the beasts who at all costs must ruin beauty to recreate it; we, earth quarriors…

not quarriers but ruthless warriors, beastly barbarians.