One thing that has always fascinated me about Rhode Island, and perhaps this is true for other New England towns as well, is the rock walls. The walls are a distinctive characteristic of this area.
Country roads are flanked by these long sometimes straight and sometimes serpentine stone walls.
This was my third trip, that I remember, to Rhode Island where my dad’s sister lives. I went about 27 years ago to attend my cousin’s wedding and our family made the trip earlier, sometime in the late 60s or early 70s.
Like a song, the site of the rock walls brought back childhood memories of years before.
My cousin Michael graciously spent a few hours with us as we passed through his hometown of Ashaway, R.I. just across the border from Connecticut. Mike is two years younger than me, which seems like a lot in the world of my childhood memory, but not so much anymore. He remembers a pop-up camper from our visit all those years ago and I remember getting in trouble and then scrubbed down after running through the woods where poison ivy grew.
In the 40-some years since we played as children, Mike has learned to build stone walls. He says it is his relaxation; it is his “golf.”
The amazing thing about these stone walls is that they are built without cement or any adhesive. The walls are wider at the bottom and slant in towards the top. Stones are hand selected by the builder to fit. It is something like building a puzzle I imagine.
The builder hauls the stones to the site, or recovers them there. He places the first one and searches for the next of a perfect size and shape in the pile of stones. And slowly, one stone at a time, the wall is born.
For some builders, working outside on a fine spring day with a blue sky and mild breeze, with the silence of nature interrupted only by bird calls, I imagine it’s meditative, even spiritual labor.
I’ll enjoy thinking of my child cousin, who has grown into a man, building the rock walls of Rhode Island.