Monday, July 06, 2015

All the Places I Didn’t Go on the 4th of July

(Or the 3rd or 5th)

     There’s so many places I didn’t go on the 4th of July 2015.
     In fact the only place I did go was up “on top of the world,” as two of my grandkids call it, up to a vantage point on Hard Hill Road where we watch fireworks from a distance, some legal, most illegal, bursting in the air.
     But the day before and the day after, my wife and I drove down to Westbrook where my mom lives so we could hang out with family visiting from far away, my son’s family from California, my brother’s from Kansas City.
      I was going to slip out to the stone wall behind my mom’s or maybe down to the river and the salt marshes but I never did. I was going to look again at some of the stone features or hunt for a clam garden in the salt marshes, but I didn’t have shoes, I forgot to bring the tripod and the tide was extra high, all those same old excuses.

      Mostly I looked at the new stone wall the neighbor across the road is still in the process of building in front of his house:
    I took a couple more shots of it, my only “stone” photos except for two other ones. I had to pull over to take this one, which isn’t much of a photo, but it shows the aftermath of the selling off of a beautiful row of stones, some of which ended up at the neighbor’s, and putting up a plastic privacy fence by a new housing development that just sprung up while I wasn't paying attention:
     The best I can do is to show you “before” is this lousy google earth street view capture before the pillaging took place:
    And sure, I got a couple old aerial “befores” from bing bird’s eye view:
The above might be the best, showing an undulating row of stones, perhaps representative of a Serpent Petroform…

      The biggest problem with bringing Stone Features of the Indigenous Landscape into an actual scientific “big picture” of a remnant of a Cultural Landscape is the mountain of documentation that has been built about “stone walls” without any real true investigation into stone walls.
    I’ll give you a piece of a little bit of this from a 1995 newspaper story, published just a few years after I began to seriously doubt just about everything I’d ever heard or read about stone walls:
     “Many New Englanders view them as beautiful monuments to the industriousness of our ancestors, enduring remnants of a dying agricultural way of life. They believe all walls are like the carefully constructed jigsaw puzzles at estate entrances and roadsides.
      (Robert) Thorson doesn't see walls that way.
     ``They're simply linear piles of refuse,'' he says…
       Thorson, a geologist at the University of Connecticut who has written a book about stone walls, is no romantic. He has the eyes of a scientist.
      ``We use them as a touchstone to the past, almost a yearning past,'' he says of walls such as the one in his backyard woods in Mansfield. ``I see walls as eco-facts rather than artifacts.''

       The traditional story of how walls came to be is too simple, Thorson believes.”

       Well now, I think, it looks like we agree upon two points then. Finally. I agree with one more thing Thorson has said – the first that stone walls function as fuel breaks, but also that the traditional story is too simple
    But still, I’d like to take a look at the stone’s in Thorson’s backyard – to look for some artifacts contained in his stone walls design - pretty far from the view that most stone walls are refuse. Indigenous Cultures inhabited the North East for far longer than that brief agricultural period of plowing fields, using fire as a tool to maintain the Landscape they were creating, perhaps using these stone constructions as fuel breaks in the more densely populated places.
    Maybe something like this, not too far from that Westbrook Stonewall Massacre by North Hammock Road, just across the street from that new wall in my Mom’s neighbor’s yard, out behind Mom’s barn where the stacking of stones is far from accidental, where the artwork of Indigenous stonework shows in some obvious zoomorphic effigies, especially Stone Turtles, are included in a stone wall:

     There’s more here:
     I’ve written about them elsewhere and at other times:
    And a few miles west along CT Route One, in a well-known state park that retains its Indigenous Place Name, is a fine example of a Species Specific Stone Terrapin, perched on and included into a “stone wall:”

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