Saturday, September 17, 2016

MENDING FENCE                

Up on the ladder this morning mending the garden fence, I couldn't help but hear, in the recesses of the idle mind that such labor kindly affords, the words of Robert Frost, who as a relative newbie couldn't quite grasp why fences were needed when there were no cows around, and when his neighbor had pine trees and he himself had apple trees, so as they went along mending the wall in his famous poem Frost kept bugging his neighbor about the need for the thing, but the taciturn fellow would only say that good fences make good neighbors. Which I suppose is true in Vermont, where some things are simpler.

In addition to the vague “something there is” and rabbit hunters, Frost made no mention of monkeys, and for good reason: some things are simpler in Vermont. Humans were the only animal problem in his equation, and unlike monkeys, humans at least know what fences imply, so Frost and his neighbor worked together, each on a side, to rebuild the wall between them-- Frost a bit mischievously, as befits a poet knowing that the builders of the fence are the reason for the fence.
Their shared fence was meant to status their own kind either in or out, and that's the whole of it. Simple. You can tell as you read the poem over and over that Frost and his noncommittal neighbor have had no acquaintance with the reasons I have my fence, why my fence is the way it is and why I mend it alone, up here on an early Spring morning that looks like rain. The ravaging creature in my equation does not know what fences are, so we do not work together, each on a side, repairing the portion that has fallen to each; the monkeys do not offer to assist in keeping themselves from my onions and turnips. Up here, good fences have nothing to do with humans.

In those regards I have the advantage over Frost and his neighbor, who view their wall in vague and questioned ways, as a fundamental structure stonily affirming the fellowship of distrust. There's no such factor in my equation, which is short and crystal clear, with no questions, no unknowns. I know what I'm walling in, and I know what I'm walling out.

To myself I say, as I go along mending: good fences make good deer and good wild pigs; there are no good monkeys.

                                                                                                    [from the archives, edited]