Brick by Brick

A lesson for an unsettled time.

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ILLUSTRATIONS BY P. SAVAGE

When this stay-at-home order started, I thought it might be fun to rebrick one of our garden retaining walls. Yes, I know. I am curious about my sanity, too.

The garden wall that I am rebuilding (read: tearing up and restacking) runs along our fence and is a long, snaking wall. It is close to 12 feet long, give or take, and feels every bit of it.

This rebuild brought sweet relief in the early days of these strange times. It was something to do. It was an escape from groaning online-schooled children and the other mood swings that kept showing up in our house on the regular. So out to the bricks I went. Outside, all I heard was chirping and quiet and peace. And—a big bonus—I was alone.

I moved dirt and bricks and learned that among other things, worms can be cut in half (whoops) and still wiggle. It was calming, digging things up and rearranging them, trying to improve life in some small way. Seeing the wall take form was a balm when it felt like all I could do was a square dance between fridge, dishwasher, pantry, and the questionable train of thought where you consider growing your own wheat.

But did I mention this about the rebuild? It’s brick by brick. Slow. Plodding. At times, boring. Mostly the same thing, day after day.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t see the similarities.

One Day, brick by brick by brick in the future, we will be on the other side of all this.

Rebuilding this retainer wall brick by brick is not about the bricks or the garden. This is really just a vehicle for me to deal with grief, loss, and anger. And me being me, well, I am trying to rearrange the wall to its former self. Which, of course, is a fool’s errand. I hoped valiantly in the beginning to make it look just the same as before. But I am much more realistic, hardened now. Time has passed. Stuff has happened. The wall will not be the same as before, as much as I try to restore it to its former glory. This wall has been through things: hailstorms, snowstorms, and almost floods. Things will just not be the same.

Sigh. Just like me.

I want this pandemic thing to pass over me, to not leave a mark on me or my family.

But I know. I know it will leave a mark on all of us. I know that I am that wall, symbolically speaking. Things have happened. Things have changed me.

But what I hang onto is that One Day.

For me, the first One Day is when the wall is complete (I still have a couple of feet to go). One Day, I will see the rebuilt garden wall and remember this time. One Day, hopefully soon, things will be better. Different, but better.

One Day, brick by brick by brick in the future, we will be on the other side of all this.

And real life will have returned, like the long-dormant seeds in my garden bed. Will it be the same or perfect? No. How could it be?

But it will be good. Stable. And sturdy.


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