Stone Fences & Ancient Roads

road pic     I was out enjoying a beautiful Fall day today and took my shotgun with me as I hiked through a section of forest north our area. This is an untamed parcel of the Adirondacks where you can walk for miles and never see another living soul. The solitude and absence of human activity is absolutely refreshing in every way. When I want to be alone this is where I am drawn, and it never disappoints me. There is nothing here but Blue Jays, Chick-A-Dee’s, Chipmonks and Red Squirrels to scold me as I intrude into their peaceful, pristine sanctuary.

I headed back off the main road and quietly covered a few miles. I crossed Beech, Hemlock, Walnut and Birch covered hills and then I stumbled upon an old stone fence and an ancient wagon road. Miles from any sign of civilization or major river, there they were, silently waiting, and guarding their secret location since the 1700’s. The stones were covered with thick green moss and each was neatly placed in a long straight row about 3 feet high. It ran in a perfect north / south direction and pointed me right back to the highway I had left behind. The road, which was barely recognizable, hugged the south side of the fence and then mysteriously turned to the left. It abruptly ended, or I should say disappeared, into the trunks of an old growth of huge white pines.

I was captivated by what I saw. I sat there on that ancient stone fence in the cool October sun, pondering what was before me. It dawned on me that this fence, and the road that followed it for nearly a quarter mile, were not just pointing in the directions of the compass, both were pointing back to other lives and another centuries in American history. As I waited silently in that place, they drew me into a time when things were simpler and more orderly. Everyone moved at a much slower pace, the nights were spent by candle light around a fireplace, and families thrived by hunting and working the land together in order to survive. They needed one another, and they embraced the beauty of that knowledge. Even though these people were long dead and buried, they had left their mark on the land, and it now left it’s mark on me.

I was standing in the footsteps of others and felt a yearning to know about these forgotten pioneers. How had they lived their lives, and how had they died? Who were they, what brought them to this place and what did they believe? What was planted in these fields that were now filled with a full grown forest? What was the topic of conversation as they loaded these rocks into wagons and piled them in such straight rows to mark the boundary of their homestead? Where did this wagon road go and why had it not been used in over 2 centuries? Did it ever cross their minds that 250 years after building this stone legacy it would impact someone who lived in a time and place they could never, ever begin to imagine?

Then a deeper question came to mind and I wondered, “what roads and fences will I leave behind, and how will they impact lives when I am long forgotten?” It was a sobering thought that came with a personal challenge. I realized at that moment that we all have to live our lives on purpose. We have to live life with vision for generations, not just for months or years. In order to leave a lasting legacy, we must think bigger and look outside the box of what works for us in the here and now. We have to consider what must be set in place that will have lasting value. I had to ask, “What can I, what can we leave behind, that will really make a difference for those who walk through their own wilderness of life, and stumble upon what remains of ours?”

My conclusion was, and is, quite simple. My roads and stone fences are established as I live my life well and on purpose. They are left as I love God and others with all my heart and give my very best to those who need it. When I do this, I am planting seeds in a thousand fields that will ripen in a great unknown future harvest.  I am impacting multitudes for generations to come by my actions and words daily. Some are family, some are friends, some are acquaintances and some are momentary encounters. Regardless of that, all of these are important because each one carries a piece of my road, my stone fence into the future as they go their way.

The fact is, we are all leaving our mark on the world with everything we do. Our actions and our words, good or bad, are continually setting things in motion. Every moment of every day, whether we want to or not, we have left our own stone fences and roads. Others are eventually going to find them, and the question we have to ask is, “will they be better or worse off when they do?” You define the reality of that future by how you treat every person you meet. Will you leave a lasting legacy? Oh Yes you will! However, the fences and roads you leave behind that others may stumble upon, are determined by how straight and solid you build them today. Live well in the present but live with a mind for the future, so that the generations yet to come can get their bearings as they stand where your footsteps once trod.

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