Listening to stone stories

Mon, 12/09/2019 - 3:00pm

Seems like this time of year is meant for taking walks. Savoring the December sunshine and the glistening woodland path contrasting the deep sapphire of the bay.

Walking, we see what Howard Mansfield calls “the bones of the earth.” The outcropping of granite. And the regimented rows of stone walls, crisscrossing woods where once there were fields cleared for planting. Maine harvested a weighty crop of granite boulders when Yankee farmers began pushing them aside in the mid-1800s. Before them, native nations set stones as trail markers. Some of those old tumbledown and moss-covered walls deep in the forest are not the work of settlers, but of those who have known these woods for millennia. Who stacked stone cairns as memorials to friendship (as they did on Casco Bay, where Governor Dudley added stones as part of treaty discussions) and as signposts. Easier to identify when traversing the paths on snowshoes, when drifts covered precipitous slopes and streams hid beneath a layer of ice.

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