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BUILDING WALL
October 3, 2005
 
What did you do today? Anna IM'd me last night.

WE FINALLY BUILT OUR WALL!!!!!!!!! I typed back.

This morning my back and legs hurt like the dickens, but I remain overjoyed. We have had a pile of stones sitting right where a dump trucvk unloaded them two years ago, challenging the turning radii of visiting cars all these months. I had a covenant with Q not to begin building the wall myself, to wait we could both do it -- such covenants always frustrate me, but I understood as we heaved and wheelbarrowed and carried stones that it had been a wise one.

Our new wall isn't much, really -- it doesn't divide anything from anything else: it only keeps the garden soil from washing into the driveway. It replaces railroad ties that had half rotted away and didn't go with their Victorian surroundings anyway.

Don't set them on their edges, I ordered. It looks silly. Rocks don't fall on their edges.

You want it to look like they all just fell there?

I want it to look like Connecticut.

We're in New Jersey. The garden walls of Connecticut are a deep grey, large stones piled together, stones pulled from the ground, I guess, when the houses were built and the gardens laid out three hundred years ago. Or who knows? Maybe they weren't pulled from the ground by 18th-century farmers at all. Maybe they were dumped in the driveways of women who ordered their patient husbands to make it look like New Jersey.

After some initial uncertainy, we quickly came to terms with the construction of the wall -- building it taught us how to build it. We worked all afternoon on it, and were rewarded with forty good feet of it by dusk. It looks like it's been there longer than we've been alive. Longer than the house has been here. Longer than the town. It is just as I had hoped.

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,< I told Q as we tucked a smaller stone into a niche made by two larger ones. Maybe so, but I like this one just fine.

Not all the stones in the pile are for the wall. I am constructing a path through the front garden with the flatter ones. They look beautiful against the earth, irresistibly inviting a stroll through plantings, many of which exist only in my mind. A path to nowhere, so far --but somewhere is definitely on its way.

The wall, the path -- ancient stones for keeping things out and keeping things in, coming in and going out. Hints of the past, tastefully ruined for the consumption of modern eyes longing for antiquity. Nature did not drop them here, nor did an 18th-century farmer -- a dump truck did. I don't know for sure what happened in Connecticut.
+

"Mending Wall"

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there,
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."
Robert Frost,
1914
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