A short meditation on walls

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

From “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost (1875-1963)

 

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I have always loved walls. Beautiful stone or aged brick walls enclosing secret orchards.

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The awesome Cyclops walls at Mycenea, built of huge hand-hewn blocks.

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The great Chinese wall – it’s been on my bucket list for ages.

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Walls protect, from the wind, from predators. They were used to defend cities. They retain mountains from sliding down, or rivers from flooding their banks, or the sea from encroaching on the land.

But walls can also be divisive.

In Berlin after the war, people woke up one morning to find out they’d been cut off from their neighborhood.

Photo from 1988
Photo from 1988

 

On a visit to Cyprus some years ago, a friend took me down a busy road lined with shops and cafes where people sat having a drink and a chat. Shockingly, the road was blocked by a wall cutting straight across it – a wall on which was written OCCUPIED TERRITORY. A guard stood watch on top, holding a machine gun. My friend said: ‘Our house was a hundred meters further down this road. We lost our house and half our friends, who were Turkish Cypriots.’ Interestingly, a few years later when the crosspoint was partially opened, they went to visit their old house, and the people who’d taken it over – complete strangers – gave a party for them. Which made me think that, for the amount of suffering caused to both sides by a political maneuver, there was zero benefit.

 

A city cut in half
A city cut in half

 

Governments continue to build this kind of wall. The kind of wall where people are always trying to get to the other side. After the fall of the infamous Berlin Wall, there were about 16 walls blocking borders around the world. Today there are some 65 walls, built or under construction, according to researcher Elisabeth Vallet of Quebec University.

 

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Israel West Bank Barrier

 

History has shown us that there are always those who wish to expand their borders to include additional territory, and those who wish to close them to preclude immigration. Today more walls are being planned to keep out migrants. Donald Trump wants to build a wall to stop the Mexicans. Soon, at vast expense (around $3 million), there will be a new wall in Calais, France: it might protect the trains and the road, but will it stop migrants from getting into the UK? There is always another road, another way…

 

Non sequitur comic strip
Non sequitur comic strip

58 thoughts on “A short meditation on walls

  1. A very interesting, and most enjoyable post, Marina. I always wanted a walled garden, something about the privacy and seclusion, I suppose. I never had one, but did get to see The Great Wall, outside Beijing. Impressive indeed, and very steep in parts too.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. When I lived in Berlin in 2008 I lived in a street where one side had been in West Berlin and the other in East Berlin. It was very odd looking out from my flat at what had been part of a separate country.

    Walls can be beautiful, though, even if they are designed to keep something out or to maintain privacy. I’ll be going to Derbyshire soon and some of the fields there have really wonderful walls.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Walled gardens beckon with their sense of warmth and privacy . . . those ones being built or ‘promised’ absolutely horrify . . . oh, one ugly one in the Middle East has not been mentioned and it too is a reality . . .

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I have always loved walls too. It’s their texture that has fascinated me. I hope work some embroideries of that texture at some time! Your post was so thought provoking, Marina. In Australia we have walls that aren’t really walls ~ that is, our borders are of water rather than concrete and stone. However, for many refugees they are still impenetrable walls.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, for a lovely garden wall…. but other walls are chilling, aren’t they? Governor Gerry Brown joked that if Trump is elected he will build a wall between California and the rest of the country to keep Trump out! That made me laugh.

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  6. What an intriguing post. I too like the low-slung walls, the likes of which I’ve seen in the Irish country side, and in the north of England. I especially like stone walls covered in moss as you’ve pictured, above. I was in Berlin not long after the wall came down, and later met some formerly East Germans at a new year’s eve party in Hamburg. What a sad bit of history.

    As for Trump, there is nothing good to say about the man. I’m so ready for this infernal election season to be over and for him to be firmly on the other side. He would set back this country 100 years if elected. The governor of California joked earlier this year that if Trump were elected we should build a wall along the California border. Though said in jest, many can relate to the desire to “wall off” his hatred. The irony with any wall meant to keep people out as that they often have the opposite effect. People just figure out a workaround. How wonderful if we could enjoy open borders, freedom and camaraderie around the world.

    The wall across the street is chilling. It makes me appreciate the relative safety we have, discounted of course all the disgruntled people with handguns. That’ll keep you up at night.

    Great, thought provoking post. Wonderful photos.

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    1. Thank you! I can see the subject struck a chord in a few people, judging from the comments. I thought the idea interesting – building a nice wall around your garden feels safe and cosy, whereas having a great big wall blocking you is forbidding… I was inspired by the news they are to build a wall in Calais. I think this kind of barrier never works ultimately, people always figure out a way around it.

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  7. A very interesting post.
    My husband was brought up in the Peak District in Derbyshire (U.K.) and learnt to build dry stone walls when he was a kid. We have a very steep, terraced garden in the midi-Pyrenees now and he has built quite a few new ones for us here. They are lovely and are lush with moss and house leeks (and lizards) at certain times of the year. However, there is a different kind of wall between us and our neighbours which means we don’t see them as often as we could or should and that one is a bit more of a barrier which, if we didn’t like them, could be useful I suppose 😉

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    1. I would love to be able to build a wall. In the Greek islands they have very interesting dry-stone walls. They make the mountains look like a dragon’s back. I will write a post about them sometimes.

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  8. I was away, or would have read this before. Thanks for an excellent and timely post. Politically or ethnically dividing walls are generally tragic, but they’re also ridiculously useless in the long run, as your Cyprus story shows.

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  9. Loved the post! I particularly liked the look of the Cyclops walls at Mycenea. The Great Wall of China is also something I’d love to see, as are the Theodosian Walls of Istanbul (which wasn’t mentioned in your very interesting post). The one wall I have no interest whatever in seeing is the threatened Trumpian Wall of the USA/Mexican border.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Who would have thought, a post about walls! .
    Despite being a Yorkshireman having the drystone in my heart, I enjoy the barrier free countryside of Poland. I also notice that whilst fences and walls separate houses and land in the towns and cities, the more you venture into the countryside the less prevalent the are. There are always exceptions but this seem to be applied to the better off in society.

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