Friday, August 23, 2013

In Praise of Shaker Stone Walls...

   I'm a huge fan of stone walls.  I've even done two posts praising can read one here and the other one thereBut the stone wall along Shaker Road  at Canterbury is really quite unique...not in the way it looks but in the way it was made.

   This wall, made with smaller stones than the others that surround the property, was built by a man working alone and with one arm!  Sister Bertha, who I had conversed with at length in the late 1970's told me all about him.   His name had been forgotten but his accomplishment wasn't, at least by this lovely Shaker lady.  He adapted by using smaller stones and coming up with devices that allowed him to roll the stones into place with one arm.  She saw it as a metaphor for the patience, flexibility and perfection of effort that characterized the Shakers.  I see it now as a metaphor for the contemplative photographer who sometimes needs to adapt to what she finds and to also practice patience and persistence.  

    When I visited the village last week, I asked a couple of people who worked at the village if they knew about the story of the stone wall and they didn't.  It doesn't take long for stories to slip from memory and be forgotten.  Sister Bertha died in the early 1990's.  Thankfully, it didn't take me much effort when I got home, thanks to the wonder of the internet, to find the story again in an article in the New York Times printed in 1990 and I'm including a link below.  Luckily, she had told the story to someone else who had written it down.  Stone walls, a common sight in rocky New England, have tales to tell, so do contemplative photographers.  One particular wall at Canterbury Shaker Village has a story that should never be forgotten.  If you have limitations this doesn't mean you can't overcome them and they shouldn't keep you from contributing to your community.  You adapt and persevere and you will succeed...simple as that.

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