When I went out back with the mason, he took one look at the river stones we had piled up and said that they were going to do just fine. "Yeah," he said, "these are really pretty."
Could have fooled me. That those rocks were dug up out of our own back yard--I liked that; but calling them pretty seemed something akin to saying some corps of linebackers are darling. They were, after all, entirely dirt-coated. "Rain'll wash 'em up nice," he said, "and they'll be really sharp."
Seemed a strange kind of sweet talk to call those massive shotputs "pretty."
But today, lined up like this in our retaining walls, I've become a believer.
How they got here makes them flat-out beautiful. They belonged to the neighbor, who dug them from the river out back. Another neighbor grabbed a bunch with his skid loader and dumped what he hauled here out back. But that's barely an inch of the epic that got 'em here.
Their incredible story begins with a glacier. We're not talking about a massive ice pond here, we're talking about ice so huge it's more like an event, even a place, like Wisconsin. In fact, the glacier we're talking about is sometimes called Wisconsin, which doesn't mean that cheese or Packers had anything to do with it.
Hard as it is to believe, this huge thing, this "event" moved, as all glaciers do, and when it did it wreaked havoc on the land--"the land" as in "God created sea and land." Crushed it, carved it, cut it up, and carried it along, here and there creating valleys, here and there filling other valleys up with what some people call "glacial till," the undigested stuff broken off of mountains or whatever, and then disgorged hither and yon over the land, as in "God created sea and land."
Here's the way I think of it. This behomoth land mass, this entire region of ice, creeps along on its own slippery base, not far and not fast, but powerfully, immensely powerfully, once upon a time (or twice or thrice upon a time). When it crept along, it disgorged some excess baggage, and left tons of rocks and stones behind in what eventually became a river when the ice started to melt. Now this river, the one out back, is not much more than a creek really, a little stream Lewis and Clark kindly decided to name after Sgt. Floyd, the only guy to die on their three-year escapade to the Pacific and back. No matter, it's got tons of glacial till.
Who knows where these very pretty rocks call home? Northern Ontario? Green Bay? Duluth maybe? Niagara Falls?
And when did this whole operation happen? That's not a tough question if you're a young-earth person--somewhere in the area of 6000 years.
But those who don't draw those lines--some of whom Christians too--say our lot here north of Alton was covered in ice anywhere between 10 and 85 thousand years ago (which, some say, is a good deal older than Adam, who was only a day older than Eve and no wiser thereby, it seems).
So the pretty stones stacked neatly in my backyard got here through no doing of my own. One neighbor dug 'em, another delivered 'em, and I just stacked 'em. They're glacial till, and they got here in the neighborhood because that massive, benevolent Wisconsin glacier simply left 'em behind.
Just thought I'd mention it this Monday morning, because the late Sabbath sun blessed this retaining wall so beautifully last night when I sat outside, all those pretty rocks.
This morning I'm thankful for 'em, thankful, strangely enough, for their beauty and the wild epic that brought 'em here.