“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” so wrote Robert Frost the great American Pastoral Poet. He thought about the great dividers between neighbors and nations. Are walls really so important, I have often wondered.
In fact the very word fascinates me.It resounds with great historical significance- Walls! Oh ! No, not the Great Wall of China nor the Berlin Wall, now gone. But I am thinking of my historical wall ‘ my historical wall was the cute little two feet high red bricked structure, that stretched straight across from the main gate to the back side of our house, dividing our neighbors house; easily climbable, easily cross-able and utterly comfortable to sit on , in the lazy Summer afternoons and sometimes early in the day, but on a holiday…yes, all day..that was my ‘wall’…
Huge lofty shady trees grew in the spacious grounds around the house which was built like a fairy tale cottage and of course a few trees grew alongside this wall, providing cool shade and shelter.
Memories of childish conversations quick chats and funny anecdote exchanges over it are still fresh in my mind.
‘Where is she,” my mother would ask worriedly. “Oh, she must be on the wall.” And so it was in full view of the house. Mother would be satisfied. I would lean against the dark rough bark of the nearest tree, pull a leaf and roll it into a tiny pipe whistle. We would call it a Peace Pipe. (I learnt it from my wall-time friend ).Nature was so near and dear to us. The freshness of the green leaves is still vivid. I can hear the “pip-peep, pip- peep” of the tiny flute. This was the best peaceful music we made together and broke into breathless laughter.
My friend and I would sit for long hours (or so it seemed) talk and laugh.. “come to the wall again tomorrow,” Nargis my friend would say. We were never really frightened as we were close to the main house. Our elders could see us even from inside the house. We could see “the whole wide world,” the boundless sky changing colors from time to time, the birds gliding and swirling high above the gently setting golden sun. And, let not forget, the tiny ants that crawled harmlessly on our small hands and feet as if making us conscious. “Lo! It’s time to go home, to study, to finish the home work, and then to sleep. There was no video monster or audio ET then.
The small rather low wall was also our imaginary Express, sometimes chugging along and sometimes dashing and flashing by faster than fairies . . .
faster than witches
past the hedges
past the ditches
It was exciting, passing through tunnels crossing dangerous bridges blowing the whistle . . . er, not the real one but across the thumb and the forefinger . . . coo,ooo chhick chhik chhik. We never knew the stations or stops or junctions on our way. Our little express would just go on and on till it finally slowed down and came to a stop. “Good fences make good neighbors.”
Our little fence was never a point of point of trouble ‘What is it that we are walling ‘in’ or ‘walling out’ when we build a wall? Nothing really…
The whole world was clear as the wide open sky. Our wall was our astronomical observatory I say ‘our’ because I shared it with my sisters and neighborly friend. During the late night sittings in the hot summers, we would scan the twinkling sky for the Great Bear, the Seven Stars and the Belt of Orion, our nighttime fantasy land.
I would call my little wall a Kingdom of Imagination and Delight of ‘Enlightenment and Joy. It did as well, however, have its disturbing moments. Once we were so engrossed in a session on a lazy afternoon, before we realized a large dark swarm cast a pall over us. I remember shrieks and screams ensued…Locusts all around. It was a locust attack. We ran towards the house to safety. Once inside, the walls made us feel safe. This time the walls were different, strong and supportive.
Summer would soon be over. Most of the fun subsided due to the cold dry winds. My little kingdom would be silent for days, empty AND lonely and bare but standing like a rock with all its glory, its dark majestic castle like structure like a fortress, enclosing the wonderful memories of peaceful times, giggling and endless laughter. Our world of imagination knew no limits.
“Thou wast not made to be broken ‘cos thou served a purpose of unity and friendship Thou had thy music too.”
My wall was a bond that brought love and built our character. It gave us strength and joy.
I wonder if my kingdom, so small and yet so rich, so strong and yet so tender, so silent and yet so vociferous, should still be standing.
Not long after, about four or so years we had to leave the cottage house for other places that were never the same. Perhaps the times had changed. Nonetheless, I know that ‘my wall had no equal would never have one. I know that my wall was such that to no one would it ever give offense.
© 2019, Anjum Wasim Dar (Poetic Oceans)
my novel (unpublished )