Yesterday, it occurred to me how wars are fought over land, even land that is arid and dry, barren and hopeless. What I also noticed yesterday is that when push comes to shove as it often does, human nature is kind of cranky, petulant, stubborn, and flat out weird.
We are redoing what was until yesterday a sad little railroad tie staircase down the side of our house. When we moved in, the stairs led up from the backyard to nowhere except the area near the front of our house, just below the front patio. So we built some stairs down from the patio to the failed railroad tie staircase, and stage two was to redo that stretch with new ties and rock, making a lovely, smooth path. We are getting married in the backyard in September, and this path will usher in our guests. Our goal is to not let people slip, slide, and break their legs before the ceremony. That would truly put a dampener on things.
Months ago, we told our neighbors about this, but yesterday as the work commenced while both Michael and I were away from home, all the dirt hit the fan. A couple of the rotten ties we'd asked to be removed were about six inches or so on their property, and our neighbor rushed out, stopped work on our staircase, emailed us in a flurry of righteous indignation, and things shut down.
The good news is that Michael has a calmer head than I, and he comforted our worried neighbors and work continued. Last night, however, as our neighbor and Michael chatted and then sparred over the empty places where the ties had been, I thought of Robert Frost and his poem, Mending Wall, especially these lines:
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'.
Our neighbors seem to want to be informed on all work we might do in our yard. I guess that would be a nice thing for us to have done, though, of course, we did tell them what we were going to do. Maybe they wanted exact times, dates, and detailed information. I wasn't clear on the concept of what neighbor meant--tell me everything, or I shut you down.
Last night as I lay in bed, playing back the altercation about the ties, I thought of Frost and I thought of a six foot high fence, one that would cut our yards in two, keeping it very clear what belongs to whom.
And if such a minor thing can end in a heated conversation, imagine what land with oil and riches and worth can do. Actually, we don't have to imagine it at all. We just look around us and see for ourselves.
What do we want from others, or what don't we want? I thought. And then these lines came to mind, Frost contemplating this as I was, but with better syntax and rhythm:
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 offense.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org