These are photos from the Walk of the Fallen Memorial Labyrinth began in 2003. I built it as a memorial for a war I knew was far from finished. We bought sandstone from discard piles at a nearby quarry and hauled them home in our little truck. (At right, a close up of counting strands first used after Hurricane Katrina.)
Above: Me carrying stones off the pile to our truck. We brought home about 800 pounds per trip – almost four tons in all with the center stones at the end. A great deal of the soft sandstone has since needed replacement – it wore out.
A lot of digging and moving the many stones left here by glaciers was required. The picture at right was the beginning circuit, with our then fire-pit in the background.
My husband helped me on weekends when he could. Mostly, I worked alone – thinking a lot about the men and women at war.
I worked from August till mid-October. It became a grueling job and summer is my least favorite season. I felt more driven as I worked and often felt like I was surrounded by people whispering and moving around me. But at last, all it awaited was the final center stones.
They had to be delivered by truck and fork lift, they weighed 400 pounds each. I had the center stone engraved with the name and the year 2003 and the word “Iraq” because that was the main force of my anger – that troops were dying in something utterly unconnected to the 9-11 attacks. By the end of October they arrived.
We opened the Labyrinth on the full moon in November to a select group of friends and family. A bag pipe played from the Honey House porch as we all walked the stones lined with 408 luminaries – each bearing the name of a soldier who had died in Iraq to that date. A young trumpeter came and played taps at the end of the outdoor rites. We opened again on Veterans’ Day – few came, but some were deeply moved by their experience there.
For a couple years I had public openings at Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day. I stopped when a woman argued with me about the number of lights/flags – for the dead to date, telling me I was “full of it” that nowhere near that many had died. I offered to let her read the lists in my books, she declined.
The next year, I posted over 2500 names in glass test tubes on the wall of the Haven beside the Walk. Three plexiglass frames like the one at left. ,. hung there until the weather got too wet.
But I lacked the heart to have a public opening that year. After Katrina devastated New Orleans I simply kept my walks quietly private. I strung beads to count all the dead I could account for by name – both American and Coalition dead in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They hang on the central stone through the warm months and are stored in the Honey/Hexenhaus in the winter. There are over 8,200 of those names now and I am grateful the rate of dying has dropped away.
However, approximately 140 veterans a WEEK die by suicide in the United States. I usually cannot find these names anywhere. I do walk for the suicides, at least once per month. I do not string beads to put on the monument as I do not know the exact number and superstitiously dread stringing too many or too few.
I walk there in all weather, have done it on crutches and with fevers. I don’t know when the dying will stop or if these wars, entitled “the war on terror” will end in my lifetime. The stones gather moss under my feet there. The stones themselves wear away and have to be replaced with harder stones.
I recall, as I built the Walk and planted clover (most of which I’ve pulled now – overgrowth and all), thinking how nice it might be at war’s end, to let the clover and other plants just “take” the stones.
It seems that day will never come. Secrets we Americans don’t speak of – we say we don’t like war, but hey, for most of the 21st century thus far, we cannot seem to get enough of it.