I have always loved the poem “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost. But I have never agreed with the antagonist’s assumption, “Good fences make good neighbors.” My sympathy flowed with the writer, who sensibly stated,
“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out.”
Now, though, I may understand the other guy.
Shortly after our new neighbors moved in, I murdered all the turf grass and weeds in our front ditch area and planted it full of rescued prairie plants. It was going to be an awesome display of flowering awesomeness, and mower-free as a bonus.
Until the day I got home and found that someone had scraped all the topsoil away, along with the plants, and reseeded it in grass. Huh? It didn’t take long to figure out it was our neighbor. It helped that we had an eyewitness.
A lot of work had gone into that planting. And the plants had been free; we could not afford to replace them. What was he thinking by coming onto our property and treating it as his own?
I could have caused trouble. But, I figure you probably don’t mess with a guy named Rocky who owns a construction company. First, that means he is big. Second, he has access to backhoes and other large machinery to make sure if he had to bury you in the back forty, he could. And no one would ever know. Oh, did I mention several hunting rifles, too?
Besides, I really do try to live by the motto of “kill them with kindness.” Or, as Jesus put it better, “Love your enemies.” Most of the time.
I killed the new grass and started over. I am stubborn. And, a couple years later, it looks good. But he has since built a fence so he can keep his perfect green lawn on his side, and I can keep my prairie and gardens on mine. And though I didn’t like the idea at first, I realize now, sometimes good fences do make good neighbors.
Sometimes, we actually get along better with someone if we have boundaries that tell one another, “This is my space, and this is yours.” I don’t like it. I am naturally a wall-breaker. But sometimes.
Sometime, there are situations and temptations in our lives that are the same. We need to draw a fence around them and tell ourselves, “Keep out.” It’s best for both sides. I didn’t get that when I taught “The Mending Wall” to high school kids. Now, I think I do.
Do you have a favorite poem? Something one taught you that you still remember?