16 September 2008

Fences Make Good Neighbors?

I keep creating fences. Actual fences that mark property lines or make a barrier from the street. We're visiting my mom in Southern Maryland where summer lingers in the lush two hundred year old oaks, the bank of the river which sits at the end of my mother's broad, green lawn. On this morning's run, I passed home after waterfront home- some old farm houses, some modern mansions, the odd trailer. I paused at the small cemetery, to see the local names: Joy, Younger, Lusby (the town's namesake)- deaths at the turn of last century. There are swing sets here, the same kind I had as a child. There was an old man on a shiny John Deere, circling his land. There was a Thai woman who had arrived by golf cart. She apologized that she was picking mushrooms. She showed me the plump russet caps. "No die,"she assured me.

The striking, unifying feature of the landscape is the lack of fences. My fifteen years of city living doesn't know what to do with all this interconnectedness. Azaleas and lines of oaks, or variations in grass height make the divisions known, but a person or animal or child could just wander from yard to yard unobstructed. I grew up this way for years, but it comes now as a revelation. Everyone with whom I currently spend any amount of time has a boxed-in yard. I am happy be in these open spaces, knowing the traffic is minimal and the distance from house to street, in most cases, far. But I still keep inserting fences. It is strange.

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