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The Stone Wall

ART TIMES May, 2004

As some of my readers are already aware, I live in the country, on a dead-end road a few miles from Woodstock, New York. It is rural and secluded, a parcel of land that has Overlook Mountain as a backdrop. Cornelia Seckel had chosen this spot to make her home years before she knew me, years before she knew I would become a partner in her life, and a partner in the mutual co-founding of this, our arts journal of, about, and for the arts. She must have had some prescience in the matter since both the place in which I now live and the paper to which I now contribute have brought a healing to my soul that I once despaired of ever attaining. You already know ART TIMES. Let me tell you a little about where I live. The parcel — a bit under two acres surrounded by woods — is mostly cleared, with a few trees — maples, pines, a lone oak, a handful of fruit trees (apples, peaches, a pear, and a not-yet-bearing plum) and a good-sized vegetable/fruit garden (80x 80’ and fenced in to dissuade deer from midnight raids) — to break up the relative flatness of the plot. There is enough "lawn" (actually nothing more than cut weeds that, if left alone, would offer a variety of wild flowers and plants) to keep me about two full hours on a riding mower to maintain. Although I love all of the parcel and its view of Overlook — I have called it my "haven" ever since Cornelia has invited me to stay — it is an old stone wall that surrounds almost all of three sides of the plot that, to me, is its most lovely feature. The one side without a wall, that which runs along the road, I have since "hedged" off with a planting of forsythia and lilac bushes that now have become so dense a cover from the few passing cars that even the deer are beginning to find it difficult to penetrate (but, they still do). A kid from Brooklyn, my life-long fantasy was to live in a place that had a "secret" and walled garden; to me, such a possession represented the height of affluence. The forsythia hedgerow, the stone wall (although only about three-foot at its highest points), the relative privacy of a dead-end road, and that special view of Overlook, comes about as close to my childhood flight of fancy that I might imagine. The stone wall, however, although easily leaped by even the youngest of fawns and only made of field and bluestone, is still the crowning jewel of this haven. Like any stone wall one finds in these rural parts, a border laid up by the callused hands of settlers now long gone (the earliest deeds to the property are partially recorded in Dutch), the wall, though yielding to gravity and collapsing here and there from time to time (a truly satisfying chore to repair as I walk the perimeter), proudly stands its ground, unashamed of its multi-hued countenance made so by shifting sunray, changing seasonal temperatures, and parasitic lichen, still staunchly fending off the encroaching woods, still enveloping me in security and seclusion. I love this wall. I’ve tried — mostly unsuccessfully — to paint portions of it now and again, attempting to catch the fleeting play of surface light and shadowed crannies as the ever-moving sunrays pass over stony surface and fuzzy moss. None of my paintings have ever done it justice. My wall has too many faces, too many moods, too many secrets enclosed in stony silence. It tolerates my intrusions and feeble ministrations — but only barely. It has known too many human andwildlife transients to be overly impressed with the likes of me. It grudgingly accepts my replacing a wayward stone that has been dislodged by gravity — but it knows that, in the end, it will outlast me. It knows who’s doing the real tending. And my wall knows that — for now, anyway — its job is to enclose my soul — a job that it performs silently and superbly. I love that wall!

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