Saturday, September 8, 2007

don't fence me in

i am of two minds when it comes to fences; and that ambivalence had me wringing my hands over the decision to put a fence in our backyard. hesitation and procrastination kept me from making any decision at all; until it was effectively made for me.

my objections consisted of the utopian sense of the land as a common treasury for all too share. certainly, a fence mars the natural beauty of any landscape with its obnoxious obviousness. as the old song goes, what gives anyone the right to keep people out or to keep mother nature in? there is something within us all that doesn't love a wall.

on the other side, there have been stray dogs that have ventured through our block and one neighbor saw a bear; so the idea of keeping strange animals out was a major factor. being able to let our little girl shuggie and our dog moosey brown run free in the back yard was another. i was fatigued with following shuggie around and keeping her from venturing into one of the yards next door. moosey brown had to be tied up to a tree and would bark constantly if she didn't see us. we had a fence at the place we had lived before, and there was no such poochie paranoia; so we knew it would be better for her to roam with relative freedom within a fenced yard. walking the dog two or three times a day was a real hassle as well with baby in tow.

i was sitting on the fence about getting a fence; all the while trying to balance my needs for security and freedom. as someone who enjoys shortcuts, scenic routes, and roads less travelled; i've done my share of jumping fences in my travels, and have had enough bruises, ripped jackets, and tear gas for my taste. a world without fences seemed like a better one to me; and i couldn't help thinking we would be spoiling the scenery for the sake of convenience.

the whole process was a bit surreal. of the four fence companies in our area, only one appealed to us. to be honest, he reminded me of my dad who used to run his own business; and he was very responsive to our concerns. another came out and measured the yard and sent us a several estimates for types of fence that we did not want and not one for the type we did. one company didn't do chain link. and still another salesmen was too busy to even come and give us an estimate.

we talked about sending a note to all of our neighbors (we have six contiguous neighbors though only five are affected directly) to give them a heads up; but the fence folks came two weeks early. then we had to double check the property line when the crew went closer than we had agreed. it would have been a ridiculous waste of time to have to pull up the cemented fence poles and move them a foot over.

drawing boundries taps into a primal place. of course, a fence is all about control; whether it's in my back yard, berlin, or the northern chinese border. and yet, the security that comes from such measures is intertwined with fear. this kind of territoriality is reflected in the way moosey brown will chase squirrels out of the yard.

still, that doesn't mean a low fence can't be amiable. "good fences" can "make good neighbors" by making sure we don't transgress that invisible line in the grass. there is a comfort in the structure of it.

now that it's complete, i'm still not sure how our new chain link will affect the already awkward conversations that often comprise neigborhood relations. it has certainly made my homelife much easier. moosey brown gets a lot more exercise as she chases squirrels, cats, and bunnies around the yard; and so does shuggie as she chases the dog. moosey and buddy (the big black dog next door) have been sniffing and socializing through the fence like star crossed lovers. now when shuggie decides to take off high stepping across the yard, i don't have to jump up and go running after her. the only trouble is that we have to keep the gates locked; because both dog and daughter have figured out how to open them. i guess that the sense of security is temporary indeed.