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SET IN STONE

ROY NEAL FOUND HIS CALLING THROUGH TROWEL AND ERROR.

"One was that this statue Roy Neal was building should be called She who cannot be contained." Sure enough, the Virgin of Guadalupe that Neal built turned out to be "so enormous only her rear end would fit under the arch. She is too big for the church, and this I love," Pinkola Estes says.

On the virgin's chest, Neal hung a crucifix he'd pounded from an antique Mexican coin. This, too, Pinkola Estes loved. She loved it so much that Neal decided he needed to build a flagstone bench for Pinkola Estes to sit on while viewing her shrine. By then it was clear to both parties that the project was nowhere near completion. Steps on which to genuflect followed, along with a Mexican jug pouring water into a second pond filled with a particular strain of green algae. Then water plants, whose roots grew into the now-underwater skulls. Neal made copper lilies for the virgin to hold. After that he felt compelled to chisel two petroglyphs into the viewing bench.

Finally, one day this past summer, Neal summoned Pinkola Estes to view his work at exactly 9:15 a.m.--which is when the light hits the virgin in such a way that she appears to have a tear in her eye.

"I walked into my garden and heard Gregorian chants in the background," Pinkola Estes remembers. "I felt so happy and touched at the same time. Roy Neal had such an unruined part of him that he could think up all this."

In fact, he could think up more. This winter, between regular construction jobs, he is adding a wide flagstone path leading up to the shrine, an anteroom with a dome, adobe walls, an ancient-looking wooden door and a statue of Skeleton Woman, the subject of one of Pinkola Estes's most popular stories. Already the sculpture garden dwarfs the modest yard in which it is built and has passersby doing double takes.

"Eventually it will fill this whole yard," Pinkola Estes suspects. "And that will be fine. This is Roy Neal's version of a bathtub with a Madonna in it.

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