This past weekend we took a beautiful family walk at a nearby bird sanctuary, a welcome respite from the crazy energy of today’s election. Surrounded by the beauty of Fall in New England, glorious woodland stone walls, and a crisp chill in the air, we ended our journey at our favorite café. Hot chocolate for the boys and fancy coffee drinks for us.
Upon returning home, and wonderfully caffeinated, Samantha and I separated to complete household tasks; Samantha and the boys to stacking firewood and me to building a stone wall. Inspired by the walls I had seen earlier in the day, I was ready to relax with some stone. Yes, while some play golf or read a book to unwind, I prefer to throw around some rocks.
As I sorted through my pile of gems in search of the next piece to the puzzle, I began to think about why I am drawn to stone. The conclusion that I always come to is simple, I am in utter awe by the individuality of each stone. No two stones are alike….ever. Each stone has its own imperfection, its own beauty, and its own perfect position in any stone composition. This, I conclude, is why people love stone walls. We inevitably have a connection to these characteristics because we as humans share them too.
As I set another stone in my wall, hammer another corner off the next piece of stone, my mind keeps pondering on these thoughts and I am brought back to a compelling analogy I once heard on a radio show. The commentator was discussing the difference between socialism and capitalism and using the comparison between a brick wall and a stone wall to illustrate his point. In his mind, the bricks, in their uniform and regimentated state, each do an equal share of holding up the wall. The mortar (the government in some convoluted way) is what holds all these bricks together.
The stone wall, by its very nature, is more like a collection of individual pieces coming together to make one whole. At this point I step back from the wall I am building, squint my eyes and try to figure out what the next piece is. Satisfied that I have the next stone in hand, I begin shaping it and get back to thinking about this analogy. I take it one step further and think about how a stone wall is actually constructed. Some stones serve as the structure that everything is built upon, some stones that never get seen (the hearting stones) serve to make connections between other stones, the cap stones protect the rest of the wall, and some stones are chosen for their unique patterns, textures, and color.
One more hit of the hammer and I think, ‘What am I doing? Why am I thinking about social science and politics while I build my wall….my respite from it all?’ I take a deep breath, wrap my hands around the next piece of stone, and clear my mind of all things political. I will not let my stone turn into some sort of social statement.
At peace again, I start working. A few moments later a truck slowly drives by me. The driver rolls down the passenger window and with a big, happy smile on his face, he shouts “Build the wall!” With a fist pump and a wink, he drives off. Of course, my first thought is ‘How great, another person who appreciates a good stone wall, a stone brother, thanks for the encouragement neighbor.’ But as he drives away, I notice a series of bumper stickers plastered to the back of his truck that explain his true meaning and I laugh to myself. I guess my stone wall has become political….just like everything else.