Good Fences Don't Make Good Neighbors

Mt. Edith Cavell: the ancient rock walls of Robert Frost.

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.

The other night, Bert and I watched a film clip created by National Geographic that featured the border issues occurring between Mexico and the United States. I’m not interested in the politics involved, for politics is what we turn to when we have no real solutions, and in so doing, create an even greater mess.

And worse yet, people become the chips on each of these gaming tables of life, and that is hard to bear. There is talk of making a wall there, crazy as that two-thousand-mile idea might be, one that is both actual and virtual, to wall us in and them out. But I agree with Robert Frost, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall … spills the upper boulders in the sun …”

The work of hunters is another thing:

 I have come after them and made repair

Where they have left not one stone on a stone,

But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,

To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,

No one has seen them made or heard them made,

 But at spring mending-time we find them there.

The work of rabbit hunters, not these walls. These are hunters of people or people hunting freedom from hunger and despair.

Then, several days later, Bert and I watched the pilot for Borders, a Canadian TV series, and low and behold, the same notion of walls between borders was mentioned again – only this time along the world’s longest undefended border, that between the U.S. and Canada.

I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;

And on a day we meet to walk the line

And set the wall between us once again.

We keep the wall between us as we go.

To each the boulders that have fallen to each.

And some are loaves and some so nearly balls

We have to use a spell to make them balance:

“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”

We wear our fingers rough with handling them.

Oh, just another kind of out-door game,

One on a side. It comes to little more:

There where it is we do not need the wall:

 He is all pine and I am apple orchard.

My apple trees will never get across

And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.

He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder

If I could put a notion in his head:

“Why do they make good neighbors?

Isn’t it Where there are cows?

But here there are no cows.

 Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offence.

And I’d ask one question more – why? What is it in us that makes us stubbornly unwilling to explore ourselves, our own nature, to see if there is not another way to understand life that sets us free rather imprisoning ourselves with our own fences. Can we truly believe that whatever created us gave us nothing more than the ability to squabble and fight?

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down.”

I could say “Elves” to him,

 But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather

He said it for himself. I see him there

Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top

In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.

He moves in darkness as it seems to me,

Not of woods only and the shade of trees.

He will not go behind his father’s saying,

And he likes having thought of it so well

He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.

That last sentence is true only if you believe fear makes a wise motivator.

We will find no answers to our problems using the same conditioned thinking that created them. And will find no answers using the same frame of reference that thinking requires—us and them. Unfortunately, we seem to be at a point of evolution where we are still questioning if all things have a soul, a spirit that enlivens them, when it would help us dramatically to be at the point where we were asking instead, what is the true nature of this spirit, this element in the universe that brings Life.

For fences don’t make neighbors at all. And if there was ever a time we needed to recognize we have good neighbors, we might be able to glimpse a grander truth as to why: we are them; they are us; we are one.

With thanks and love to Robert Frost, for his “Mending Walls.”

Christina Carson is author of the powerful and haunting novel, Dying to Know.

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