Fences ~ part of the Borders, Boundaries and Barriers series ~ by Karen Richards

This week, Karen Richards explores the reasons that we have borders and boundaries and what life would be like without them.

My neigbour brought me samosas and birthday cake, left over from a party. We chatted, by my open front door, on a warm September evening. I invited him in and he thanked me but did not cross the threshold.

Instead, we ‘put the world to rights’, on the doorstep. He asked after my husband’s health and I about that of his mother and father.; an exchange of pleasantries. sincerely meant, we turned our talk to food and family, hopes and fears.

He told me he dreamed of a community in which we all came together to pool our resources in a common space, with a commonly shared garden in which to grow things, to sit and take time to talk to one another.  I smiled and said I had the same vision. That, when I look out of the bedroom window, and see the little patchwork squares of garden, each one sectioned off by larch lap fence panels, I sometimes want to rush out and flatten those boundaries to make one great quilt of land; to say, ‘Hey, let’s share this space, arrange it with benches and a communal vegetable plot, flowers beds and a little firepit to sit around, fairy lights and a games area for the kids”. A place to talk and laugh and not be islands, sufficient only to ourselves but to enjoy our oneness and interdependence.

We basked in this possibility for a while, as if we had just discovered something new and achievable but, when I eventually thanked him again for the food and closed the door, I went once more to my bedroom window and gazed on the very different plots of land below me. It was a nice idea but perhaps an unobtainable ideal. For, without boundaries, my wild, cottage-style patch would creep out into next door’s neat, minimalist garden and my energetic lurcher dog would torment Ruby, the cockerpoo, that lives at number 4. Watching the children playing and digging in the dirt would, perhaps, be an idyll to some and an annoyance to others. Would we live in utopian harmony, or would we come to resent that we did not have a space to call our own, unique to us, to express ourselves on our own terms?

Across the globe, there are bigger patches of land, each with its own borders. The inhabitants of these patches mostly live in harmony with those on the other side of the fence and some, sadly, do not. Some share the same space but are so different from one another that finding common ground is difficult. Others see beyond the differences and try to make it work.

Borders and boundaries have their usefulness. There is a protective nature to them that provides us with the privacy and peace to be ourselves. At the same time, they can compound the notion that we are separate from one another, becoming a barrier to seeing life as it truly is and enjoying the fruits of our oneness with all life. It is a lifetime’s work to flatten our own fences and enjoy that oneness. Better to start sooner than later.

I hope you enjoy this video.

5 Replies to “Fences ~ part of the Borders, Boundaries and Barriers series ~ by Karen Richards”

  1. I am reminded of the Arabic proverb: “Trust God and tie your camel”. Our shared being is oneness, still we have to take into account the rules by which the game of this world is played. That game does involve garden fences and country borders. I love the tiny squirrel on that fence!
  2. Thanks Karen. The world seems to be in such a muddle, this touches the heart. I don’t think I’ve ever really listened to the words of the song. It was lovely to do so. So long ago…
    1. There is a mixture of naivety and wisdom in John Lennon’s words. I remember they gave me hope. The world seems hopeless, at the moment. I needed to hear them again. Thank you, Chris!
  3. Thank you Karen, I loved this well written article and John Lennon’s song imagine was so apt to finish it. I agree there is a balance to borders and making boundaries, on the one hand they can be very useful and on the other hand cause great difficulties, as you illustrate with your garden fencing. As with most things, diligence is required to spot when things may become blurred and some action is needed. I have learned from my own past mistakes in this area, when being too liberal and not taking action when needed, has had an overwhelming consequence. Everything teaches.

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