Wood Stacks and Stone Walls: The Calming Beauty of Simple Things

There is something solid, reassuring, and pleasurable in the simplest things we were once surrounded by. Natural things that took form from the feel of a man’s hand. (Or a woman’s.) I’d like to share with you some images from my recent return to the Baltic Island of Gotland, where several of the Saga books are set. Ancient stone walls crisscross the countryside, and are mended with care to maintain them. Firewood is stacked to dry by folk today just as their ancestors did.

There is beauty and sanity in such work. Sometimes we need a return to the comfort these things provide. Perhaps looking at what I came across will give you a few moments of pleasure, and welcome grounding.

Stacks with Milk Cans

Dairy farm with fire wood ready for Winter.

Long Wood Stack

Woodman’s pile. I liked this as it was shaped almost like a house.

Smaller Wood Dome

Circular dome of firewood. The shape helps the wood dry thoroughly.

Two Domed Wood Stacks

The same dome with its big brother. The giant one looks almost like a pine cone. Building these must have been a highly meditative act.

Kindling with standtun fence

Another domed pile, fronted by a traditional fence called a standtun.

Natural Hook

Natural wood hook outside a fishing hut. The red paint is traditional falun red, a copper based paint beloved by Swedes.

Natural Door Handle

Natural wood door handle on another fishing shack, worn smooth and pleasant to the touch.

Handle Blue Door

How great to sort through random branches and roots to find just the right shape for a door handle…

Stone walls that endure

The enduring beauty of a stone wall.

Fårö Stone Wall

High artistry on display in this stone wall on Fårö (the small island to the North of the larger island of Gotland). If the man who built this did nothing else, his life was well spent.

Hau Farm Stone Wall

A ribbon of stone to carry the eye and thoughts away.


{ 52 comments… add one }
  • Janet September 15, 2019, 5:16 pm

    Wow. You have a unique eye for natural beauty. Thank you for sharing your enthralling pics.

  • Patricia White June 13, 2017, 7:57 am

    Thank you Octavia for bringing Gotland to us. How wonderful are those walls, those wood piles? Your books, your photos but mainly your passion makes me want to board a plane for Gotland immediately. ❤️

  • Elaine Louise Erskine June 12, 2017, 11:21 pm

    I wasn’t even sure where Gotland was until I looked it up while reading the adventures you shared in ‘The Claiming.’
    I’ve read the Outlander series and am watching Vikings as it unfolds. I am becoming quite educated in these eras. I love it!
    I am thoroughly enjoying losing myself inyour series. Thank you, Octavia.

  • Kathleen Grant June 12, 2017, 2:34 pm

    My goodness, look how many of us scour your pages reading all of your wonderfully interesting information and anxious for anything brand new. The photos are exemplary. Now I have to start looking closely at ever dead branch to see what use I can make of it.

  • Cheryl Snider June 12, 2017, 12:36 pm

    I love your website and photos. Everything looks so neat and tidy, my highest praise. Enjoy your time in Gotland, because I know what you endured to bring Silver Hammer, Golden Cross to us. I know you will find inspiration for your eagerly awaited next book! But get some rest and ENJOY!

  • Nadine Chase June 12, 2017, 11:43 am

    Dearest Octavia, Your artist’s eye is everywhere. These are so beautiful and truly interesting to note that the wood pile structures and the stone walls were aesthetically pleasing as well as practical. Your travels and visions open the door for the rest of us. Thank you for sharing.

  • Kathy Hudson June 11, 2017, 7:45 pm

    Love these picture! All this seems like extremely satisfying work!

  • Janet Anderson June 11, 2017, 5:49 pm

    Taking the time to make the everyday beautiful and exceptional is a wonderfully creative gift. I appreciate your sharing with us the artistic nature of our Gotlander “neighbors.”

  • Donna Margot June 11, 2017, 1:34 pm

    Simply love these pictures, solid and so calming!
    I like the ” old life” much better than the rip and roar of the present… so settling and intrinsically nourishing.. ah, the beauty of the peaceful efficiency of it all!
    Thank You!

  • Barb June 11, 2017, 1:19 pm

    Beautiful pictures Thanks for sharing them.
    I enjoyed your books .
    Brought me many hours away from reality and into their world.
    Thank you

  • linda June 11, 2017, 11:19 am

    Thankyou for the lovely photos. While in England and Scotland last year, the stone fences were amazing to see, they stretch for miles and miles and miles, so much nicer to the eye than a wooden fence.
    Love your books , waiting for another

    • linda June 11, 2017, 11:24 am

      Oh I meant that to say this in my previous comment, brought back a memory of years ago when we lived in the country up in northern Canada, the kids and I built two wood beehives out beside the house. It was fun and the kids had a great day splitting the logs albeit with a log splitter. I don’t remember where I got the notion from, but hubby was sure surprised when he got home.

  • Della Wilson June 11, 2017, 10:13 am

    Thank you for great pictures, it is so nice to know that some things do not have to change and there is much to be said about the simpler things in life. I think I would have been very happy in Gotland. Any idea on when book seven will be available? God Bless Octavia.

  • Loren June 11, 2017, 8:08 am

    Thank you for sharing these photos. So beautifully simplistic, but artfully designed.

  • Jenni Moffatt June 11, 2017, 3:45 am

    Beautiful photos Octavia. I loved the wood stacks – especially the ”pine cone” and stone walls. I was both intrigued and fascinated by the natural wood handles and how you said one was so worn and smooth the to the touch. Wonderful!

  • Josephine Bresnik June 11, 2017, 3:04 am

    Wow, thank you for these beautiful pictures. Goes to show, our ancestors worked harder at what mattered, and were happier for it.

  • Carol Smallman June 11, 2017, 2:37 am

    Hello from Australia,
    We are in the first month of Winter and have had a lot of rain. Our Winter’s are quite mild as I live on the Eastern Coast, half way up.
    Your pictures are reminding me of the love I felt in your books of Gotland. I am re-reading Book 1 and I have found it is more meaningful. I must have forgotten some of it as it is better the 2nd time around.
    Waiting patiently for your next book.
    Carol S.

  • Ali June 11, 2017, 1:43 am

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful pictures. We have a wood fire but store our wood in a shed- how boring. These pics inspire me to make at least one stack in our garden. Where I live, the area was settled in 1840 and some of the farms around us still maintain the original stone rock walls to divide the paddocks. There is certainly something very grounding in seeing these photos – life should be this simple.

  • Angela Elder June 10, 2017, 11:24 pm

    Peaceful, architectural simplicity! Stone walls built with care and intended to “be”, as of course, they are. Thank you for sharing the beauty your eyes feast upon!

  • Susan Morris June 10, 2017, 11:03 pm

    Thankyou for sharing these wonderful pictures with us – having walked through some of the more uninhabited parts of Scotland these photos remind me of some of the places I saw there. So lovely to be reminded of ‘the old ways’ and ‘the old times’…….I will enjoy reading further into your books Octavia. Smiles and sunshine to you.

  • Pamela Jones June 10, 2017, 10:35 pm

    I cannot help but feel that this orderly placement of rocks and wood must have given the designer a sense of control, in a time that would have seen such chaos.

  • Lyn Buxton June 10, 2017, 9:07 pm

    Wonderful pictures, brings back memories for me. Thank you.

  • Beverley Gardam June 10, 2017, 8:31 pm

    we have wood for our fire as we live rural , but nothing like the work of art shown here , and those stone walls , how beautiful they are , thankyou for sharing Octavia .

  • Marlene Steele June 10, 2017, 8:26 pm

    Thank you for sharing these great pictures and also thank you for the wonderful books you write. Always looking forward to the next one.

  • Kaye Bonato June 10, 2017, 8:23 pm

    There is something so calming and reassuring seeing these lovely pictures and knowing my Danish ancestors would have done much the same thing. Thank you Octavia.

  • Judith Armstrong June 10, 2017, 7:56 pm

    Thank you for the charming pictures. I lived in the California Redwoods and we used wood for heat. I was the official wood stacker and built wood piles like in your pictures. I guess ‘The Danish genes’ are still alive and well in me!

  • Nancy Mesick June 10, 2017, 7:42 pm

    Just lovely. I collect rocks everywhere I go. Building small walls is soothing and useful.

  • Marcia Woodbury June 10, 2017, 7:34 pm

    Lovely….thanks much for sharing!

  • Cynthia June 10, 2017, 7:25 pm

    I grew up in a dairy farm in rural New York State in the 50’s and 60’s. For many years we heated the house with a wood stove in the cellar. Firewood was stacked against the walls in the cellar and we used a tractor and wagon to take trips to the woods to find the best trees. There is nothing so comforting as the smell of a wood fire!

  • Elaine Macdonald June 10, 2017, 6:56 pm

    Thank you for sharing these beautiful images of firewood and stone, Octavia. Nature is used for both function and design. Can’t get any more beautiful!

  • Lowen June 10, 2017, 6:38 pm

    Lovely to explore others living and in a sense, lives. Thank you Octavia.

  • Judith Bancks June 10, 2017, 6:34 pm

    Thank you for sharing these lovely photographs. Rock walls, especially, are so nevokative of many rural area we visited in the U.K. And Ireland on our last visit.

  • Theresa June 10, 2017, 6:23 pm

    Very interesting. We today just go and buy what is needed. It is nice to see how a “just a piece of wood” to us is a usefull tool or fixture. Thanks for the share. Waiting patiently for you next book.

  • Kim Meseck June 10, 2017, 6:18 pm

    Beautiful, thanks for sharing!

  • Jo Ann Hurley Maehrlein June 10, 2017, 5:45 pm

    I absolutely love the escape I find in your books. Finished the last one and now adrift in the ocean of life. Can’t wait until the next one but thank you for beautiful escape so far.

  • Nicola Finch June 10, 2017, 4:48 pm

    Hi Octavia. Thanks so much for the pics of those awesome stone walls. We have built a stone circle on our remote property and continue to work with stone. I am loving the resurgence of Long Barrows too. Beautiful stone barrows for the safe keeping of cremated remains. Hoping to build one here in British Columbia, Canada. It’s inspiring to see these Gotland stone walls ~ thanks again.

  • Susan McDavit June 10, 2017, 4:35 pm

    Your books are so vivid in detail and I see why now with your on site visitations
    A stunning job of bringing history into present reality
    Thank you

  • Katherine Gonzalez June 10, 2017, 4:28 pm

    Thank you for the lovely photos. The stone walls are so intricately designed. I so enjoy your writings, also.

  • Mary Jane Fulciniti June 10, 2017, 4:24 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I miss farm life. Having a good firewood pile, a barn full of hay and a pantry full of canned produce was like money in the bank! So satisfying!

  • Joanne C. Platt June 10, 2017, 4:23 pm

    The wood stacks and the stone wall ae just beautiful. And yes it’s peaceful looking at the pictures. Thank you for sharing.

  • Colleen Hartnett June 10, 2017, 4:14 pm

    Those stone walls aren’t terribly different from the ‘ditches’ which border most country roads in my husband’s native Ireland, our home for 11 years… lovely!

  • Susan June 10, 2017, 4:14 pm

    Thank you for the reminder that the joys of life are in the simple things I love the stone walls what wonderful muted colours. Thanks for sharing.

  • Charland June 10, 2017, 7:57 pm

    So peaceful. Thank you for all the photographs.

  • Gwen June 10, 2017, 7:50 pm

    Thank you for letting me have a tiny glimpse of the beautiful piles of wood and the stone wall, you get a sense of peace just looking at the photos, thank you again

  • Carol Ardeeser June 10, 2017, 7:44 pm

    Absolutely gorgeous wood and I love stone walls…thank you for sharing!!

  • Marilyn Swuires June 10, 2017, 7:27 pm

    Makes me feel a sense of oneness with nature and time. Thank you

  • renee June 10, 2017, 7:21 pm


  • Susan Magee June 10, 2017, 7:20 pm

    I have always loved the beauty and symmetry of an artistic pile of wood and the sight of a well thought out stone wall. Thought provoking and peaceful. Thanks for posting !

  • Anne Bailey June 10, 2017, 7:19 pm

    After three weeks in the Scottish Highlands I’ve come to admire stone walls, but these you’ve shared are breathtaking. Thank you, and as I’ve said before, you have put Gotland on my personal list!

  • Stephen Carew June 10, 2017, 7:17 pm

    Thank you for sharing your photos and your thoughts. I have visited Sweden several times and enjoyed learning more about the culture.

    Your photos of the stacked wood reminds me of the way they stack their wood in the Tirol.

    Stephen Carew

  • Kathleen Meger June 10, 2017, 7:07 pm

    These are stunning…we still burn wood…our wood is stacked also but not nearly so artistically! Love the rock walls.

    • Josephine Wake June 10, 2017, 5:12 pm

      What fascinating wood piles, never seen any so prettily arranged. The stone walls are wonderful too. Been to both Denmark and Norway but never to Gotland

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