, , , ,

trump's wall   “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down.”
Robert Frost penned those lines in his meditation on neighboring titled “Mending Wall.” The poem seems to contradict itself with its other famous line, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
Burlington is busily building a new wall out of steel and concrete, a floodwall protecting us from our source as a community and a periodic threat to our central downtown as well, the Mississippi River. We may wonder how long this new wall will serve its purpose. Will it be high enough, strong enough, good enough? The designers promise that it will not hide us from the beauty of the river, and we are waiting to see.
Many of the old walls have fallen in the last thirty years. They were mostly walls of limestone, placed carefully without mortar in many cases, and gravity has gradually taken its toll. The limestone, so prevalent and so full of Burlington’s famous crinoid fossils, has been an abundant resource for wall construction. Walls served the purpose of confining the chickens, horses, and hogs, or they simply helped to clean up lots that were covered with limestone.
In June, 1992, Zion’s High School youth tackled the project of removing one such wall. The old limestone wall fronting Zion’s parking lot had shown a determination to change its position. Zion’s section was moving to the west, an inch or two a year, while next door Victoria Apartments’ section was moving to the east. Two major cracks exposed the conflict. The young people speeded up the process, adding their brawn. We fantasized the possibility of circling the wall seven times and blowing a trumpet, especially when considering the four 300-pound stones that topped the eight-foot high wall. In the end a more direct and tiring approach pulled those heavy stones down with ropes from a safe distance. It was tug of war with us on one side, the wall on the other, putting up a good fight.
After that Mathew Johnson sat atop the middle section attacking with a heavy hammer and chisel. Most of the stones needed just a nudge, for a hundred years reduced the original mortar to powder. He soon found another force at work as a million angry ants made his seat untenable. They were not happy with any of us who were destroying their dry and happy home. We further meditated on upsetting the biosystem that the wall represented, pausing often to shake the tiny defenders off our clothing, but we continued our assault. One by one we carted the stones away, loading a pickup truck several times, leaving only the foundation for another day, and leaving the northern section on our neighbor’s property to go its own way.
We admit that we did not like that wall. It had stopped serving whatever purpose it originally had. Over decades people had made many efforts to keep it intact and oppose its own desire to obey the laws of gravity. A layer of concrete smoothed over the outside of the rock, so it did not have the charm of the rear wall of the parking lot with its vines and decrepitude.
After we thought about that day of practicing our faith, we named and recognized other walls that remain in our lives. Walls without purpose are leftover from earlier ages, without honor or beauty, with defenders aplenty, but they too will succumb to the laws of nature and spirit. We have seen some of those walls fall as easily as Jericho’s, but we cannot expect to walk around all of those walls and find the same result. Some require more concerted and strenuous efforts. Sledgehammer anyone?