Self-Archeology in a Stone Environment

Not everyone gets a face to face meeting with the past. That’s one of the perks of starting early in a built environment profession. Decades pass, the craftsperson moves on but their creations can remain unchanged from the day they were made.

To walk alongside a wall face built many years ago is to be transported back to its inception. Recollections of a personal journey come alive even though the structure itself stands motionless and mute. If a wall was built well to begin with, only the lichen betray its many seasons.

Regrets seep in when a wall shows evidence of decline and degradation. It’s hard not to avert the eyes when confronted with mistakes of one’s own doing. All the excuses for why the work wasn’t done better are way past their expiration date. Good memories turn to bad and beg to be forgotten.

The most enjoyable takeaway from examining a wall that has remained true is a validation of the beliefs held while bringing it into being. Dry stone walling is about action in the moment but the results take a while to be proven out. The labor of building is lightened by seeing how honest effort ultimately endures.

Today marks the most recent of a dozen times I’ve finished a project for my closest neighbors. Since the early 1980’s we’ve been thinking up new ways to delight ourselves with the potential of dry laid stone. I’ve plunked down the rock and they’ve nurtured plant growth in a series of slowly evolving and maturing spaces. The latest installment links up two ages in our shared history. The past is not left behind as long as the present extends a hand.