I am used to walls by now. I wasn’t used to them before moving to California. But in Santa Barbara (really Montecito) we have walls everywhere. The walls are high with large gates and entry panels. The walls are meant to protect privacy and ensure security. They were, at first, unique. Then they became troublesome. Who’s behind those walls? Why can’t I see in? How can I be neighborly when we can’t see each other? Then they became normal, as I was invited in behind some of the walls and got to meet my neighbors. Walls just were. They are a fact of life in our community.
France has walls too. There are ancient walled cities. There are walls around castles and Duchies. And there all walls in the hills above and around us. These walls are called a particular name in this region of France called the Cevenne: bancel. They are dry stacked (with no mortar) and form multiple terraces in this hilly region. Sometimes they terrace olive trees or grape vines. Sometimes they were grazing paths for sheep and goats. These walls structure the hills and give access where the incline would be otherwise impossible to navigate. They were painstakingly formed and stacked by hand. But they are seldom more than three or four feet high. They are walls meant to be climbed over and seen over.
Clearly this image of walls can go lots of places. Is the church a wall to keep other out of help them navigate in? How about me? Am I a barrier or a bridge? Does my presence make life for others more navigable or difficult?