Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sherlock Stones and the Preacher’s Stone Fence

(Inspired by those TV shows that place the well-known character of a similar name in modern times)
   “What do you make of these stones at this gateway, Dr. Possum?” said
Sherlock Stones. “Which draws your eye first?”
   “Well it’s anchored by boulders on either side. Colonial farmers did that to keep the wall from falling apart at a gateway, they say,” answered his friend, Dr. John Possum.
     “So they say,” Stones said. “There’s also another repeat of the pattern we’ve seen in other places – observe, Possum, don’t just see...”
     “Why there’s those ‘diamonds’ again!” Possum exclaimed. “One on each side, approximately the same distance away from the boulders.” Stones and Possum had spent several days travelling about this town and a few neighboring towns, making observations of similar gateways and certain stonewalls that ended in boulders. “Technically, I suppose you could call the shape a rhombus, as they are designated in the Geometry branch of Mathematics,” Possum added.
     “Only if all sides are exactly equal, my dear Possum,” Stones replied. “Without careful measurement, we don’t know that - they may well be ‘rhomboidal,’ yet each not a true rhombus.”
      “So now, step closer to the one that actually caught my eye first, Possum,” said Stones moving to the left of the gateway. “Note well, my friend, that we have seen that many of these – call them ‘end stones” for convenience sake – are triangular in shape. I find the white band of stone interesting.”
      “Interesting indeed,” said the Doctor. “It looks as if some natural process that shaped the boulder has resulted in something that trigger’s one’s mind to image that there is an eye on this boulder! It’s a phenomena known as Pareidolia, when the mind perceives a familiar pattern of something where none actually exists. Quite common, in fact. Clouds in the sky that ‘look like something’ - and all those sightings of religious figures in water stains or pieces of burnt toast. In the field of psychology, it is sometimes termed Pareidoliatic apophenia, or just plain old apophenia - the human tendency to perceive meaningful patterns within random data.”
      “I’ve asked a geologist friend, interested in Mimetoliths, to take a look at this boulder,” Stones replied.
      “Eh?” Possum pondered a second. “Stones that “mimic” objects, perhaps? Sounds like the Greek mimetes - an imitator - combined with lithos – a stone of some sort.”
    “Very good, Possum! There’s hope for you yet! In most cases these stones are purely accidental cases of the seeming playfulness of Mother Nature. In some instances, on certain stones, however, microscopic examination reveals that the human hand has enhanced the natural. This particular stone is lichen free for the most part, unlike most that we have observed. It is also a very hard type of stone that has resisted the weather much more than others. I suggest that this stone may be more like a “sculpture” than a natural and unintentional similarity to a snake.”
     “Good Heavens, Stones! That’s quite a leap – a simple boulder to stone snake!” Possum paused to think a moment before asking, “You do recall that we are standing at a gateway to the property originally owned by the first Puritan minister in this town? What the Devil is a stone symbol of the Devil doing on such a property? Granted that the first fences of the times were easily constructed wooden rail fences, but surely the descendants of a minister or the farm hands they employed would not be making monuments of the Serpent who urged Eve to eat the apple in the Garden of Eden.”
     Stones was on bended knees now, looking closely at the two depressions in the stone slightly below and slightly behind the perceived “eye” of the perceived snake. “Considering how this stone does as well as does not resemble an actual snake, these depressions may resemble actual features of the head of a pit viper. Snakes have no visible ear, so they don't hear sounds as we do, but it's not quite right to say that snakes are deaf. They have vestiges of the apparatus for hearing inside their heads, and that setup is attached to their jaw bones, so they feel vibrations very well and may hear low-frequency airborne sounds. This uppermost depression may represent that spot.”
    “While the other may resemble the pit that gives the “pit vipers” a common name,” said Possum, nodding. “So we are looking at not only a stone snake, but a poisonous stone snake at that!”
    “Perhaps, Possum, perhaps.” Stones stood back up. “I noted similar such marks on other similar boulders, albeit covered in lichen. The number of instances implies a pattern, a repeated one at that, rather than mere coincidence. Consider the Indigenous stonework one finds in Mexico and southward, down into South America. A Great Feathered Serpent occurs in many different kinds of stonework, carved into softer stone, but a snake-like being none-the-less.”
    “Yes, that’s true,” Possum said, “And there are many places around the world where this snake business enters into myths and legends, spiritualties and religions, and, yes, architecture too. Shared by humans world-wide, you could say, this snake fascination.”
   Stones was looking closely now at the “eye.”
    Possum did as well, said “These could be several events recorded in stone, so to speak, as the boulder was shaped by the glacier, moved along the ice, tumbled out of it, stuck by other stones, eventually deposited nearby.”
    “True, Possum, true,” Stones said. “But recall that not too very far from here is the site of one of the state’s oldest archaeological discoveries. There were people here much farther back in time than our good minister ever imagined. We stand at a place considered a virgin wilderness by those Puritans, that some believe was actually more of a widowed Cultural Landscape, created and tended by the use of fire for countless generations of the Indigenous Peoples we call Native Americans – and Indians because Columbus believed he was in India. The Puritans claimed that Indians enclosed no land, but the famous dissenter Roger Williams made some statements that recalled that Indian Sachems knew the “bounds” of their lands, especially when using fire in their hunting practices. Williams never mentions stones as “bounds,” but I know of nothing that is naturally more fire-proof than stone to ensure that fire does not spread further into anyone else’s bounds – or burn up all the resources within one’s own bounds, like a hearth inside a wigwam or long house. In the last thirty years, much has been discovered about this practice of burning by Indigenous People the world over, the reasons for it going well beyond the hunting aspect. Those Puritans, by the way, were quick to define what a legal fence was just after the argument was presented by the founder of Providence Rhode Island, how high in particular, allowing the claiming of vacant land and setting the precedent for legally establishing ownership with the simple act of building of wooden rail fences. A closer look at some of these stone walls or stone fences may be necessary to establish whether or not what those Puritans were saying was actually true – placement, stacking techniques and Indigenous Iconography. The sheer number of these walls of stone alone perhaps suggests that they pre-date a Golden Age of Stone Wall Building that lasted roughly 100 years." Stones paused a second or two before saying, "I wonder what a soil scientist could tell me about the ground beneath this stone? Something that might contradict what these Puritans claimed that is the basis of the belief that Indigenous Peoples of New England were not intelligent enough to stack stones like these?”
    “Oh Stones!” Dr. Possum exclaimed. “Next you’ll be telling me that these Puritans weren’t 100% correct with all their information about witches!”
    Sherlock Stones didn’t answer, although he smiled. He was already walking toward the boulder on the opposite side of the gateway...
Other Stones observed by Stones and Dr. Possum: Other Stones observed by Stones and Dr. Possum

3 comments:

  1. I wonder what Stones' brother Lithcroft might have to say on the matter?

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