Good Fences Make Good Neighbors
It was Robert Frost who made these words famous in his poem Mending Wall. The Santa Ana wind that blew night before last blew down the fence between our yard and our neighbor’s yard. We will have to have it replaced. All of the yards have fences or walls. Mmmm always speaks nostalgically about the houses of his childhood that had no walls or fences. I remind him that we live in a different place and time. We have always had a fence or wall around the perimeter of our yard. In a larger town or city a wall or fence gives a parent a sense of security about their children.
Inside our fence, Mmmm and his father built a two story play house for Kay. It had a fireman’s pole for the children to slide down as well as a ladder to climb. We had a truck load of sand delivered to our front driveway and Mmmm hauled it around to the playhouse. He built a little retaining wall to keep the sand in and ergo! There was a huge sandbox. What a lot of fun both Kay and all the kids on the block had inside our fence. They built roads and zoos and cities and African villages and any number of other projects. They were allowed to run water in the sand and wade in the water and sand. It was a wonderful time and place.
Our fence never kept anyone out, even the stray dog that adopted us. He jumped the fence to get in. When Kay went to college and eventually to Philly, the playhouse was taken down and is now a little garden house. I think I still hear laughter in the walls when I open the door.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition says “Good neighbors respect one another’s property. Good farmers, for example, maintain their fences in order to keep their livestock from wandering onto neighboring farms. This proverb appears in the poem “Mending Wall,” by Robert Frost .”
I have always liked some of Robert Frost poetry and when I reread this poem this morning I smiled because in the poem Mending Wall, Robert Frost is saying,
“Something there is that doesn't love a wall.
Farther on he says:
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.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.'
I am afraid that living as I do, where I do, I want a wall. I feel more secure and safer with a wall. There is something in me that loves a wall.
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