beneath the trees

7.2.10 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum
New London, Connecticut

…Cool, verdant spaces
Beneath the trees
Secret empty places
Nobody knows…
~ Mary Chapin Carpenter
♫ (I Have a Need for Solitude) ♫

Last week we had a spell of absolutely perfect weather. No humidity and comfortable mid-70 temperatures. One morning Janet and I went out for a lengthy walk deep into the woods. We were beckoned off the paths a few times and got a little lost, well, not terribly lost, just a little confused… As far as I can tell, we only went around in a circle once, and only had to retrace our steps one time.

I have only recently learned that stone walls, which I see everywhere I go, are almost completely absent outside of New England. The first European settlers to arrive here started clearing the woods for their farms, and the exposed topsoil began to erode. Rain would soak deeper into the subsoil, which was full of rocks. When the moisture froze and expanded, it pushed these rocks to the surface, and they began to call them New England potatoes. What better thing to do with the “crop” than to clear them off the fields and build them into stone walls?

In the 1800s people began abandoning their farms to live in cities or to move out west as pioneers in the westward expansion, and the woods came back to much of New England. And so it is that one cannot take a walk in the woods without encountering at least one of these ubiquitous grey stone walls.

7.2.10 ~ wondering who built this stone wall

On this day the sky was bluer than blue and the sun was so bright, its light penetrating through the tree canopy wherever the leaves let it through. The contrast between the splotches of bright light and dark cool shade was striking.

7.2.10 ~ to see the summer sky

To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie –
True Poems flee –
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1491)

Sun-stone’s kiss, midsummer pleasure,
Welcome all and some.
~ Caitlín Matthews
(The Celtic Spirit: Daily Meditations for the Turning Year)

7.2.10 ~ sun-stone’s kiss

The stars speak through the stones. Light shines in the densest matter. Earth and heaven are one. Our physical beings and our heavenly souls are united in the mystery of being.
~ Philip Carr-Gomm
(Druid Mysteries: Ancient Wisdom for the 21st Century)

9 thoughts on “beneath the trees”

  1. I read this yesterday and I got caught up in my journey and forgot to get back to you.
    As I read this and your blog this morning “Earth’s Natural Internet” I was pulled back to Easton Mt NY (Greenwich) and the 175 acres we could meander on, the dogs and I, full of trees, streams, and brick walls. It is where I received so many re-awakenings, and walked through so many fires of transformation, the land was always there for me, always welcoming and comforting me.
    Your blog is such an honor the the majesty of nature… Beautifully done!

    I am Love, Jeff

    1. Thank you, Jeff! 🙂 Upstate New York is an area I would love to explore someday. Our two trips to Saratoga Springs gave us a little taste of the natural beauty found there… So many state parks and natural wonders! 175 acres to meander on sounds so refreshing and uplifting! I know what you mean about the land and I can imagine how powerful and profound your experiences were. I grew up in the woods and always felt that the trees were my friends and felt safe there. There was one tree I would climb and stay perched on for hours, feeling its energy. I didn’t have those words back then to describe the experience, but now I understand.

  2. The remains of an old stone wall run behind my property here in MA and up most of my street. It is like a property line between the houses on my street and the ones on the street behind mine. Its kind of cool that it was never completely destroyed, and the neighbors all around here kind of use it as the property line. I love bright blue and puffy cloud summer sky pictures!

    1. Thanks, Karma! We couldn’t get over how very blue the sky was that day! My dad’s property is on the town line and there is a crumbling old stone wall along the line. It used to fascinate me as I kid that I could straddle it and claim I was in two towns at the same time. When Tim first took me to visit his parents there was a very long and well-preserved stone wall out in the woods near them. The rocks on top were so flat we walked on them, marveling how different the woods looked from 3 or 4 feet off the ground… Memories…

  3. Wonderful timing to read of the New England stone walls as I’ve just finished The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. In it he talks about the return of the forests and reclaiming of those very walls as an example of how the northeastern U.S. might look if humans were suddenly gone from the world tomorrow. When farmers began leaving for the cities the landscape returned to its roots, underscored by the standing stones you’ve so nicely shown! Thanks for that, Barbara!

    1. Wonderful! Another book to put on my wish list! Sounds intriguing… It makes one wonder about the past and the lives of the people who built the walls and the possible future and what another species would make of our relics and what would they wonder about us. It’s funny the things we take for granted – now that I’m paying more attention I’m noticing even more stone walls every time I’m out and about. Thanks for dropping by, Julian!

    1. Thanks for the very informative link, Val! This interest in stone walls started when Kathy (of Lake Superior Spirit) told me they didn’t have many stone walls in Michigan. I have not traveled much in this country so I was kind of dumbfounded – I had assumed they were everywhere. So it looks like they are in a lot of other places besides New England, but not in Michigan! 🙂

      I’m planning to order a book called “Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History in New England’s Stone Walls.” According to the editorial review, the author says that the majority of stone walls in New England are “tossed walls,” because the farmers tossed the stones to the sides of their fields. And that certainly seems to be true of the ones I come across in the woods. But I see a lot of dry stone walls along the side of the road – presumably these are more recently constructed.

      Once in a great while I see cemented stone walls, but they are usually part of the landscaping on expensive properties.

      My dad built some dry stone walls near our house when I was little. He saved the rocks from when they were digging for the foundation of the house, and used them for these walls stepping up from the lower side of the house to the upper front of the house. I used to think he was the strongest man on earth lifting those stones into his wheelbarrow and using planks and things to try and maneuver them into the right spot. You can see his work on this post: I still don’t know how he managed!

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