There are times throughout any given month that the ache for clear air and earth underfoot overwhelms me, and I find it necessary to escape from my small manufactured hold to see undulations of field into forest & take in the din of a hungry & most passionate aviary. My most rudiment of objectives is an infusion of sanity ~ a solitary tonic for relief to shore up my wearied senses for the next few hours until I can leave each ingredient of a days toil on each mile of pavement like so much spent rubber. A yin & yang for the vapor of technology.
A few days back, I had a such a day – with my confines and conditions in need of balance. My interior was dry and bland to the taste & my words laden with the secondhand predictability of a carnival barker. So out to my reliable red friend I ventured, and within a few short rotations, pulled up alongside a grand square of conversation land nestled amongst the corporate chaos like an inner city victory garden. I have no idea what this patch served in previous lifetimes, but it carried the name of a benefactor, a local woman I assume of some note, that had the foresight, vision and romanticism to donate such a sanctuary to the town. I suspect it was part of an estate since abandoned and lost to the invasive entanglements of a suburbia unpruned ~ but regardless of its trajectory ~ it served my needs quite satisfactorily.
My footwear was grossly insufficient to traipse about such a place on a thawing mid-March afternoon, but for those that spent any time with me know, shoes are all but utilitarian, so when nature accommodates a spontaneous visit, mud is but the parting gift of a friend.
The substantial acreage of the fields were flat & browned by the intensity of our long winter but opened to a thick fringe of barren, and disproportionate sumac ( at least I believe it to be sumac) that lined the perimeter. Upon the immediate edge, workers had aggressively trimmed back the robust saplings and laid them in uniform stacks, like so many soldiers on the edge of a civil war battle ground with feet protruding to the western sun.
The trees strained in reach to the center in crowded rows that, due to their lack of vegetation, created a wide, matted and haunted canopy lifted straight from the Brothers Grimm. Perhaps like me, they sought the freedoms of unfettered light and air that lay within. I walked over to the edge and immersed myself within its interior marvelling at the fractured light and intertwined ropes of branches that consumed the space above the ground. Even the robins ran about under this shroud with awkwardness. Unable to fly & exploit their natural gifts, they struggled to exit with speed and grace and looked more like a team of dogs on their hind legs making a hasty retreat from the unannounced intruder that was me.
Much to my amazement, as I had been to these woods a good many times before, a stout 4 foot, 3-course field stone wall reinforced the rear of this line. However, unlike most of the glorious stone partitions that line these parts, this wall was mounted with hundreds of breathtaking, and back breaking cap stones, ~ each a good 300 pounds or more, by my crude layman’s estimate. In general, the great stone wall production years of the post revolution era followed a simple & logical premise of design and that was that no wall exceeded the mechanics of a man swinging the largest stone from his hip to conclude its vertical growth. In this method, a man of modest size would never lift the final stone per se, just swing it into place like a crane, thus maximizing his capacity and potential transfer of weight (as well as save his back the injury and compression!) Yet this behemoth was a vastly more impressive effort and gave me immediate pause as to ponder its makers approach and commitment to its construction. It was of such size and girth, that even the a few centuries of New England’s regular, heaving breaths of frosts and ice had barely impacted its integrity. Nary a toppled stone, nor break, was revealed in its form and it stretched unbroken for hundreds upon hundreds of yards. I followed its line until the thickets were impassible and my shoes became crusted with harbingers of spring. A machete would have been a handy implement to extract me from this path, but in absence of such an implement I stumbled and pulled my way from the meshing and back onto the sun-drenched and sodden field.
Breathing now~ I embraced my encounter. Of solidity & of the subtle, quiet virtues of Yankee commitment. Of nature’s aromas and new springs and things reborn from long winter’s grip. I could now return with balanced gait.