Stone by stone, breath by breath, layer by layer, this wall
was built by Barry Patch, on a country road in Connecticut where I always ride my bicycle when visiting my mother.
Whatever the weather, every time I would ride past, he was there. In the heat-cold-snow-rain-sun-clouds-wind-stillness, he was there, always by himself, laying stone upon stone. All 1,689 feet of it—inexpertly measured by my bike’s computer.
Recently, on a Saturday, I was surprised, and yet not, to see him, as it was close to 90º that day, so I stopped to chat. The wall looked near completion, there was no more clear space to build, and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to praise his gorgeous wall and ask him one question.
“Is the building of this wall a meditation for you?”
“Well,” said Barry, without hesitation. “It takes a lot of patience and concentration, so, yeah, I guess it is.”
Barry, or ‘The Stone Buddha’ as I now think of him, knew what he was talking about, even if he’d never sat on a meditation cushion.
One stone, one breath, one muscle exertion at a time, he no doubt entered samadhi many a time while constructing this wall. He was calm, kind and generous. He was proud of his work, but not too proud. He was also physically healthy and looked much like a rock himself.
I got the impression that if the wall were swept away in that moment, by a strong gust of wind, he would be unperturbed, much like Tibetan Buddhist monks who will meticulously create a sand mandala and then, to demonstrate the impermanent nature of existence, sweep it all up and pour it into flowing water. My Stone Buddha, I imagined, would simply begin again, one day at a time, to lay stone upon stone.
That afternoon, while helping my mother plant some flowers, the teaching of The Stone Buddha was there with me. Plant beautiful flowers even though they will die. Start a project even if you do not know where it will take you. Take a risk, leap into the darkness, and develop wings as you fall.