The oldest stone wall in New England was built in 1607 near the Kennebec River north of Portland. Most of them were built between 1775 and 1825, a time when massive deforestation made way for farms, tillage revealed the glacially deposited stones, and there were many young hands available thanks to the baby boom following the Revolutionary War. But what about all those stones…
Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”
Maybe the big Bang? Wisdom was with God at that time, so maybe a whisper to Him that, “Hey, You got to do SOMETHING to create all the stuff You want.” (Folks, if you were God, wouldn’t you want to start it all off with a bang??…why not; no fireworks ordinances…ANYTHING’s possible!!).
Anyway, 13.772 billion years ago, a minuscule dot of humungous mass blew up, scattering stuff all over the universe. Gravity caused these guys to come together, compressing into clouds of space dust, creating heat, and igniting to form stars. Hydrogen is afire in thermonuclear fusion. Helium and other elements are created. The star gets old, grows to a Red Giant, and blows up…scattering the elements.
These pieces are again attracted by gravity and form planets. Meteors and asteroids slammed into some of these planets, depositing the ice that they were carrying. Thus, the Earth has water. But it’s cold, so ice sheets form and grind away at the Earth’s rocky surface. Think sandpaper makes sawdust, and grinding ice sheets make rocks (and real tiny rocks,…sand; and even smaller rocks..silt; and tiny rocks with water-holding minerals…clay). Various erosive actions further break down these rocks, and deposit them amongst the finer sandy soils.
Bacterial plant life began in the ocean, making oxygen. Other stuff came into being and died, like everything does. Their remains settled to the ocean’s bottom, the ocean receded, and stuff grew from the rich decayed matter within the sandy soil. Winds blew stuff around. Dead stuff kept adding to the soils, making other stuff grow and die…
Then, eventually, we came into the picture. We got hungry. We began farming, and found all those rocks. To get them out of the way, we moved them to the edges of our fields, forming stone walls. There were many glacial events in the New England area, so we have a lot of rocks planted by the glaciers into the sandy, organic soils, and we had a lot of hungry humans wanting to grow stuff…thus a lot of stone walls.
So, while out doing our woods-walks, or driving along pastoral lanes, we now have the occasional stone wall story to ponder. Darkness, Light, Elements, Planets, Water, Rocks, Plants, People…it’s ALL Stardust!