Saturday, July 4, 2009

Mending Walls - Mending Ourselves.

“Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,”

Robert Frost - Mending Wall

It’s easy to agree with Frost that fences made of stone are only for walling things in or walling them out. Whether it’s to segregate the lawn from the flower beds, or keeping the world out of our private life, walls today are all about dividing and separating. But the ancient walls of New England are different. Like rainbows, they seem to have no ends, marking the boundaries of elfin realms and the long-forgotten kingdoms of Yankee farmers. Sleepy with lichen and moss, they meander through forests and behind homes with the all the mystery of Mayan ruins and crop circles.

At a hundred years of age, the wall that separates my son’s school from the park is fairly young. It’s unfortunately, as Frost pointed out-

“Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.”

Yes, many stones had escaped the grip of their brethren and have tumbled onto the grass, but you can’t repair a wall of this age. You repair cars. You repair bad credit. Old walls, like broken hearts and home spun clothes, are mended. The stone masons pick carefully from the stones strewn out under the maple trees. They fit them together, bits of jagged edged puzzle pieces, held in place with cement. When they are done, the stones will once again be used as a bench, a spot to bounce a ball, a balance beam, a home for mice and moss.

This is the irony of old walls. They bring people together rather than separate them. We don’t mend them because we need to divide land. We do it because the wall is a connection to our pasts and to our community. Frost didn’t realize that his wall was making him a good neighbor. After all, if it weren’t for the wall, he and his neighbor wouldn’t have spent any time together working on a common goal.
The walls that sleep in our woods no longer mark property lines, but they are part of our common heritage and history. A legacy that we all can share.

Interested in stonewall preservation? Go to-

Also, checkout Matthew Wheelock’s Wall, an excellent illustrated children’s book by Frances Ward Weller and illustrated by Ted Lewin (the above picture is from it).

1 comment:

  1. Love the picture. It's warm and inviting. Looks like fun.