The other side of the stone wall . . .
I’ve decided that most of life’s good things are on the other side of a stone wall. In Ireland.
I have always been struck by what the walls represent. What they contain. And the strength and simplicity of them are humbling. Their strength, and security, pull me in.
When you think of America’s landscape you think of big, expansive things that run to the horizon. Cornfields. Ribbons of road. Rivers. Mountains. Coastlines.
Enormous. Vast. Expansive.
Ireland feels more intimate. In reach. Connected.
Ireland is a country of rolling green fields. We’ve all seen the pictures. And if we’ve been lucky, we’ve peered out the plane window as we’ve come in for a landing. We’ve walked the paths and driven the roads.
The history of the low, stone wall is a story of perseverance, strength and survival. Ireland, particularly the west of Ireland is choked with stone. It’s just beneath the surface. Everywhere.
It could have been their undoing. It became their foundation.
Our history was their moment. Their defining moment. And in that moment, hundreds of years ago, those women and men knew that to build your home, plant your crops, manage your animals, care for your family, to survive. . . . You had to clear the field. You had to do the work.
You couldn’t be defeated by what you were confronted with, despite its cruel nature. Inhospitable. Brutal. Unforgiving. You needed to find a way to let your life, and the generations that would follow, take root in that soil.
You had to make a path. Clear a way. Do the hard work. Take what you were given and give it meaning and purpose.
So the stones, large and small, were picked up, by hand. Some were used to build homes, and shelter for the animals. The rest were carried to the edge off their land, where they were stacked. Slowly. Carefully. Deliberately. In an exhausting, back breaking chore . . . surely in the rain and the wind. With bare hands and rags on their feet.
They cleared the land. They defined their future.
This was not the luck of the Irish. This was the strength of the Irish.
And with their “patch” defined, large or small, they could begin their lives. Build their home. Care for their family.
And despite ll that swirled around them, they had truly made this place their own, by hand. Life was hard. And would get harder. But they knew they could trust the ground beneath their feet. They turned challenge into conquest and obstacle into opportunity.
Ruthless unwelcoming landscape was turned to the strongest of shelter and security.
Those walls represent strength. Vision. Endurance. Hope.
And the walls have stood. For centuries.
Today, they seem lovely. And simple. Tourists find them quaint and picturesque. The stone wall, with a white washed, thatched cottage and a docile ass is the postcard we’ve all seen. It’s light and easy. Pretty.
And that makes for a few good snaps, for tourists on a bus that want to say they’ve been to Ireland.
But when you feel connected to the place. And when you understand deeply that the ground is sacred beneath your feet, those walls represent strength. They connect people to each other and to history. They are ageless.
To me, the walls represent dreams. And all that’s possible.
And honestly, I want to be within those walls. To feel protected by their strength and connected to their story.
Out the window of a plane, from the side of the road or along a lane looking in, I have always known that the best of life can be found on the other side of a stone wall.