“Something there is that doesn't love a wall...” from Mending Wall by Robert Frost
As we drive along the serpentine country roads of little towns in southeastern Massachusetts, I can't help noticing the plethora of stone walls that abound in the area. It only makes sense that the abundance of glacially strewn boulders and rocks should be moved out of the way and made into something useful, but there are just so many of them. What labor and sweat must have been involved in digging these up, hauling them and piling them into stone walls and fences.
Many older houses have fine stone retaining walls which are works of art and serve a good purpose. Most use mortar to hold them together. Heritage walls surround old cemeteries and burial grounds. But some dry stone walls which marked land boundaries in days past, continue for miles and miles along back roads or through now-dense forest, their reason for being long lost. I guess they provide good homes and hides for local critters.
The poison ivy seems to thrive over, under, around and through them. Moss grows thick as green velvet in their chinks and crevices and lichen covers their worn and weathered surfaces. I'm always amazed at tiny flowers that manage to thrive and poke out from the tiny cracks in the stonework. In some areas, the walls are dilapidated and the stones are scattered. Historically, mending walls was a springtime chore to repair any winter damage and insure land and animal boundaries remained sturdy and intact. These abandoned walls need mending, but who would bother to do such a thing nowadays in the middle of the woods?
My grandfather was a stoneworker … a mason ... as was my cousin. They had a feel for stone … how stones could be fit together and interlocked to withstand weather and time. He could eye a pile of stones and pick just the right one to be laid next. The ultimate masons were, without a doubt, the Incas. When we visited Machu Picchu, we marveled at the intricate stone work, fine craftsmanship of their walls and the immensity of the stone projects they completed without the aid of modern equipment or for that matter, the wheel!
We've talked of having a stone cottage one day with old rock walls on the property … near a pond maybe. So we can skim stones while telling the grandkids tall tales about our sailing adventures.