Hi Earl,

There are a lot of analogies we can work with here.

I must admit, I do enjoy the way your thoughtfully worded prose illustrates your interaction with your natural environment, out in the beautiful Northwest. Making walls with rocks sounds like it gives you the psychological benefit of creative problem solving, along with the bodily gratification of hard manual labor. A mental and physical exercise. What I also see is how you're positively manipulating your environment to fit your aesthetic vision. There's something about moving giant rocks around that seems almost primal, like you are making your own Stonehenge or Machu Picchu.

Your story about undoing your previous work and realigning the rocks reminded me of a fond memory. It has been years since I did any carpentry, but it used to be something I enjoyed very much. When I was in high school, I used to help my dad with some DIY repair jobs on the family home. That house has my work all over it and it still gives me joy to see all those weekends with my father carved into the walls of our home. I hope we never sell that house, so it stays in the family forever. I remember the way father used to shake his head when he would uncover the handiwork of the previous owners--shoddy touch-ups and quick-fixes that were never built to last. "What were they thinking?" My father taught me never to do anything half-assed, and his voice still lives on in my inner critic. As others here have mentioned, taking apart lithic structures that are no longer working for you might be your way of externalizing the restructuring of assault-related thoughts, memories and emotions going on in your interior life.

But what about your exterior life? Could those walls of basalt also represent the walls survivors like us often build around ourselves to protect from being hurt, or to stop our own pain from spilling out onto others? Are there boundaries that need to be fortified in our relationships, and are there walls that need to be broken down in other places? Is it time to revisit where to draw the line?

I must confess, the only stone walls I see on a regular basis aren't the hand-stacked ones you describe. People don't do that sort of thing in New Jersey. My mind has taken your words and painted a picture of rock walls in ancient Europe stacked by loyal subjects of one king, to distinguish his land from the domain of other kings. A wall for safety and security--distinguishing homeland from foreign territory. Borders don't occur in a vacuum. It can take years of fighting and conquest between nations in order to achieve the resolution needed to draw lines on a map that make cultures feel secure in their own identity. In applying such an analogy to my life, I think about the lines I drew around myself early on, right after being assaulted and rape. Don't tell my wife. Don't tell my mother. Don't touch me. I can't. I won't. I don't feel like it. Don't call me on my cell phone, don't all my home phone, don't e-mail me, don't text me. I don't want visitors. How many times do I have to say this to people? Don't hug me, don't kiss me, don't hold my hand. Get your hands OFF me. No visitors means that YOU DON'T BELONG HERE. These are the walls I have constructed in my own life to keep myself safe, and I find myself up in my lookout tower, surveying the perimeter of the land 24/7 without rest, for fear someone might find a weak spot in my wall again and take me as a prisoner in my own land. I've closed myself off from a beautiful world that I used to inhabit because I had my honor and integrity torn to shreds by an encounter with pure evil. Are my walls strong enough to withstand another assault, and is it worth the isolation?

All right, that's enough for one day. Sometimes when people put analogies in front of my face, I take them to their most logical conclusion like a raving lunatic. I just don't know what to do with myself.

Earl, take some time to recognize that there are people out there that would look at those piles of rocks--the metaphorical rocks and the actual rocks--and get so intimidated that they'll walk away from the whole process. The fact that you did any recovery work at all, after suffering what you have suffered, is an achievement in & of itself. Now, you've got the self-awareness to revisit the progress you've made. Do you have any idea how much strength that takes, and how evident that is in what you've done? I'm not going to be hauling giant rocks any time soon, but you've inspired me to think of things I can do to regain a sense of mastery over my environment. I cannot think of anything right now, but the places that surround me do not feel like my domain. I still have that giant pile of cardboard boxes, in the well-appointed house that my wife bought without my input. Maybe i need to build some walls of my own.


“If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.”

- Saint John of the Cross