Hiking in Heaven
Folks Met on the Trail
I was taking a familiar hike on West Rock Ridge in Southern Connecticut when I happened upon a scene created by some playful artist(s) who had lifted stones onto one another, creating a series of cairns along the path and in the woods, elfen folks and little gnomes to entertain and delight the surprised hiker.
Careful stone work is not new to West Rock Ridge. The hiker who takes the trail around the west side of the ridge walks along a rock wall made almost a century ago by the Civilian Conservation Corps. These workers also created a giant stairway on the trail east of the ridge. They provided stepping stones along trails that ran with water in spring. Their work is solid; there are very few places where rocks have fallen out of walls, though a couple of the giant steps have toppled.
On the day that I discovered the recent gathering of stone folks just north of Judges Cave I had also hiked past the eighty year old stone wall built during The Great Depression, so that the idea of creative stone cairns seemed to loop back on the image of the older stone work. The present joyful expression, almost as transient as bubbles, was juxtaposed against the crafted stone wall that was built to last. I thought about the artists of today and the workers of yesterday, who did their best partly out of gratitude that they had work at a time when few men did. The Great Depression was a time when men deserted their families out of shame that they could not care for them. (They went hobo-ing along the less that 50 year old railway system, jumping to catch a train as it got moving and climbing into boxcars.) I could imagine a man still young and with the muscles needed to lift those stones collecting his $25 a month and sending it home to a wife and children.
It was less easy to imagine what the new artists were like, but they were certainly insouciant, which is to say, most playful. I imagine them giggling to think of the hikers who would come along the trail and step through the arch of grapevines into the surprise of those stone folks seemingly at pause from busy pursuits. It put me in mind of heaven! I was quite high there, high on West Rock Ridge.
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The Stone Hero
- SWAMP WALKING WOMAN
Just as the Civilian Conservation Corps of 80 years ago and the stone artists of today did their heroic best to lift society out of its economic and emotional depressions, a small rock figure helps to save the world from suppressives and the swamp.