The rocks had been covered by vines, thorn bushes, and overgrown shrubs for years. We had almost forgotten what was inside that jungle. The children played hide-and-seek around the edges but avoided going all the way in where the sun’s rays hardly touched. That portion of the Stone Gables grounds became known to some as “The Island,” a thick, thorny place with a parking area on one side, a driveway on the other.
When Charles and I decided to spend several days at Stone Gables during Christmas holidays, he proposed to my brother that he would like to clear that unruly space. Charlie and Bill found a good strong teenager to be his helper. The day after Christmas they went to work.
I had the delightful opportunity of identifying with my home place–picking up scattered scraps of gift wrapping left from our big family Christmas gala the night before, sweeping the Hall, shaking the tablecloths, watching the sunlight and shadows change the colors of the floor slates. I took pleasure in “chunking” logs in the fireplace, making sparks fly upwards. It was a cool day and the warmth was so cozy there beside the tall hemlock Christmas tree.
At intervals I went out to see how Charles and his helper had progressed with that huge prickly job. By the time I took them snacks at 10:00 they had a big pile of debris burning. Even though the temperature lingered in the 30’s they both had shed a layer or two, expending so much energy whacking and sawing. Sounds of the chain saw and the shears mixed with the crackling of dry branches in the growing bonfire.
When I saw the rocks that afternoon it was like meeting old friends. Those rocks were part of our childhood and adult years, as well as that of many of our children. We climbed them when we were little. We sat on them when we were tall. We performed childish concerts and plays on and around them. We picnicked on them, philosophized in very serious conversations around them, and opened exciting letters perched atop them. There was even comfort in the rocks’ stability when we lost a treasured pet and had to have a really good cry. The rocks were there as silent witnesses when our dates delivered us home and stole a kiss or two before walking us in the house.
Somehow along the way the lime bushes with their cruel thorns had taken over and been joined by a myriad of other bushes. At the same time, our focus had shifted to the growing of our own families, to participating in many different communities where the ten of us children became citizens. My brothers had the huge job of taking care of their own places as well as Stone Gables and Pinedale. They worked hard to keep everything open but still the ivy grew up the trees, crabapples took root in the wrong places, and vines wound in and out of everything. The place of rocks became an impenetrable island amongst otherwise well kept grounds.
The rocks were still there but they were hidden–and almost forgotten.
That day after Christmas, though, the rocks were exposed again, at least most of them. I was puzzled about one favorite rock that seemed to be missing. It was nice and flat and was situated between two large pine trees, the last I remembered. The pine trees were gone but the rock should still be there along with the others. The others were right where they’d been years before. Their arrangement reminded me of oversized blocks abandoned by children running off to play a different game. It was as if those children had grabbed up that one special rock and carried it away.
The next day, as Charles and his helper chopped and pulled and wrangled with vines, the missing rock was exposed. It was a little farther west than I had remembered it, but there it was between two very rotten pine stumps. I couldn’t have been more excited, I think, if the guys had discovered gold!
When several of us gathered that day for a soup and sandwich lunch we talked about the rocks and reminded each other of many activities that went on around them. Sometimes on a Saturday Mamma would cut the boys’ hair while they took turns sitting on the flat rock. Any of the rocks were great for studying spelling words or reading a book. The flat rock, as well as another one with a nice indention in the middle, was good for cracking walnuts. Cracking walnuts was a cold job. One could not wear mittens while hammering hard nuts on a cold, windy day. But in the summertime the rocks were warm when we sat there breaking beans.
One of the best things about the clearing of the jungle was that now Stone Gables could be more clearly seen from the south. When Charles and I returned from a walk in the South Woods, we were delighted to see the house so well–and to see the dear old rocks, hidden for so long, now airing in the sunshine.
There is definitely something to be said for uncovering old landmarks.