If you’ve ever hiked deep into a New England wood, you are wise or lucky. Both. You found it loosely bordered by a dilapidated stone wall. Surely you noticed it. Tumbledown rocks, tired, reaching. Burrowed into a fern covered berm. Mycelium stalking the rocks path, mushroom unfurling. Your trek led you to clamber over shadowy shapes connected by romantically entwined vine, thorn, history. Shades of velvet moss spreading royal forest carpets for woodland life. Dimensions of greens, undergrowth of browns tenaciously clinging to lifeless stone life. You saw great oaks devastated by centuries of storms, gnarled roots around giant boulders embracing yet again, life. You stuck your boot into a quagmire, crossed the swamp, peered into a once working rock sluice. Scratched your way through prickly underbrush to set atop a rickety stack for the sheer pleasure of the feel of it on your fingertips. For the sight of lichen dispersed along its pitted surface. Snowflake lichen, each one different. You paused, felt something shapeless from the earth rise, from the sky strike. Vagueness. You polished off your McIntosh. Tossed the core. Hiked on. Hiked back.
Back to stones. Back to walls. Back to a couple of weeks ago, back a couple of centuries…
On a cold, gray January morning I hiked to see the stones. How they stack up, line up, stand up for something. To learn something of earthly, heavenly vagueness. To me, unknown.
I considered contacting Lil Fox, Craig because of his talent as a stone mason, an expert craftsman, an artist of majestic earthly order. Known by locals, often seen in the field by the boulder, amid lovingly assembled stones. Along the stretch of would be meadow on Boston Neck Rd. His red Jeep, unmistakable. Big Yellow Lab, ever by his side.
He, if anyone, I thought, would shed some light into my growing curiosity about stones. And walls.
As per my M.O., I put it off until later. Dashing out the door, taking no tools of the trade. No textbook, microscope, hammer, chisel, specimen collector. My study would be visual, tactile, emotively inquisitive, right brained.
I arrived at the field that frigid morning ready to touch the stones which Lil Fox chose with care. Rocks which he laid out, stacked up, lined up, created his art. Dispirit occurred as I approached. Across the boulder lay a huge banner. A memorial. White with bold red letters. “RIP Lil Fox. Sadly missed.”
In that bitter ashen air, there came a revelation. My entire life has been lived among rocks, stones, walls. I helped to build one once. With my former husband, our small child at our side. I touched, turned, lifted, turned again every single rock. We (well mostly he) eyeballed each one to measure. Fit it into its rightful place in the puzzle. Individually hand-picked stones. Damn arduous work. Bull work.
I tried to imagine my life, our landscape without the walls. Barren.
My earliest memories from childhood, blurred in with Grandma, dog bites, swing sets, bee stings. Favorite blonde-haired girl cousins, bubble gum. Brothers, sisters. Infinite kid laughter. Stonewalls joyful, yes.
What have I learned from these stones?
I’ve learned that what is unseen, unsaid can be treasures, valued, held in the highest esteem.
Like stonewalls, they’re connected through light years of imperceptible roots, a parsec of assiduous twine.
I’ve learned that stones have life. Rock can bleed. Our hands lift, hold, turn. Place them carefully into the life of the puzzle.
Walls can grasp and hold immeasurable love.
I missed my chance. I didn’t ask Lil Fox about the stones. If you get a chance go. Admire his work. It’s of his hands, his life. It’s of the earth. Many questions are still.
May your stones be full of life. Your life with laughter and questions. Ask.
May your walls be infused with love.
Your love clutched, held and spread for generations.