Monday, August 18, 2008
I find stone walls bittersweet. When you happen upon them in the woods, they're usually falling down and terribly picturesque, but of course they mean that the land at one time had been stripped of its trees and given over to muck and cow manure. That the trees have reclaimed the land is not an entirely perfect consolation. When you happen upon one in the suburbs, it usually means you're in a rich part of town and a specialist has assembled it beautifully, from other stone walls, without mortar, with great historical accuracy, in front of the huge, California-style mansion on the knoll above. You don't happen upon them at all on working farms - modern cows must be very athletic.
And then there's this one, in Rockport, Maine.
It stretches for hundreds of yards along Calderwood Lane. There's only one entrance. It's unvaryingly uniform. Note the perfect toupee of moss along its top, and the dark green moss near the bottom to signify age, and the grass mowed on the outside. Undoubtedly, the mortar will preserve it for another hundred years. It won't be allowed to fall down. It calmly suggests owners with too much money, and in any dispute of property, it will "engage in delaying tactics" until the lawyers prevail. My American Heritage Dictionary should have used this picture to illustrate definition 1 (a).