An old stone wall runs along the north edge of some 15 acres of woodland I’ve inherited. I grew up on this land and played on the wall many times and, as an adult, marveled at it periodically when I would return to the homestead and go walking on the land. When my father passed away and the land came to me last year, I began to see it differently. I began to see it as it could be if tastefully managed, if care was given to piling brush and making walking paths.
And as if seeing it for the first time I saw the wall almost as an organic being, something once completely formed but that has since suffered the ravages of decades. In many places, it had crumbled and the stones that had fallen out were buried under years of decayed plant material. Someone had once put enormous energy and vision into the wall’s construction; it occurred to me that I could repair it. So I started.
Four hours completely focused, a joy of Zen mindfulness, doing the real work until my fingers (though gloved) were sore from scratching the forest humus to get at the heavy granite and shale stones, and hefting them back into place. I learned that repairing a stone wall teaches you how to build a stone wall. I peered inside the wall, into openings not peered into for a hundred years or more, I cleared away matted detritus several inches thick and meshed with tiny roots, I pushed away the husks of pine cones long ago eaten by grey squirrels. I smelled the forest, listened to birds, and completely forget that I was there.