I had not been born yet. Still, I can see you at your labor - alone, scouring the meadows for the stones - lifting their gray shoulders from the moist earth - pulling them from the green grasp of briars, goldenrod, and Queen Anne’s Lace.
The smell of the earth must have filled you with your own childhood memories - of plowing fields and cold mornings trudging across barn yards mud thick on your boots - promising yourself that someday you would leave and never return.
I can hear the pick axe - the sharp strikes against the stones, and the dull thud when the earth swallowed the blade - and the deep exhalations when the stones tumbled into the old wheelbarrow – new then - that now leans rusting against my garden shed.
Some of the stones were so large - far too large for one man – how did you move them? I look at the old photographs and you seem so young – so much younger than I am today - and so thin – staring off-frame beyond the camera. What were you looking for in those fields?
I can see you sorting the stones, stacking them - building and unbuilding and rebuilding the walls and terraces until the walls were true and the terraces level and planted with dogwood, birches, soft grass for bare feet, and bordered with roses.
Did you know that you were building my castle? That the highest terrace would be my tower and keep? I remember calling out to my knights, my legionnaires, and tribesmen – rallying them in defense of the citadel – ready for the coming siege.
I also remember looking out across that verdant kingdom for the last time - no longer a king or a boy – and miles away, across the river to the west, I imagined the new home that awaited us. I couldn’t know how far away it would be or what it meant to leave.
This morning, as I looked out across the garden that I have built, I felt the weightlessness of time and its gravity settling me into place. For a brief moment I had the sensation that I was standing on the shoulders of gathered stones.