Fences – keeping in, keeping out

Ever since an enlightening conversation with our friend Josh, who’s a fence-maker, I’ve been thinking about fences and other boundaries. It’s as if my eyes are opened, and now I’m seeing fences everywhere. Funny how that happens.


* Siberian cemeteries: While doing my grad work in Siberia about 13 years ago, there came a Remembrance Day. One of my host-parents walked and took the bus for 45 minutes across town to the garage where they kept their car. Then we piled in and drove to the cemetery, in which every grave plot was surrounded by a low fence, individually maintained by the family. Each plot was different, much like each apartment home. My host-parents cleaned the plot, and we sat for a small meal and stories.

* Jhong thorns: In the Himalayan kingdom of Mustang in Nepal, there are limited resources for building and energy use. All of the fields are surrounded by fences to keep out the livestock, which could be detrimental to the family and community if the yaks or dzo get into the crops. Rocks are plentiful and so are regularly used for fences, as well as threatening local thorns.

* Sama Center: In Kathmandu there is a community center for Bharagaon , a political unification of 12 villages in Mustang, Nepal. The Sama Center is a beautiful campus of Tibetan architecture with plenty of space for large gatherings and an impressive large red gate reminiscent of structures in Lhasa.

* Kathmandu emu: My husband remembers, as a teenager, going to the zoo in Kathmandu. He laughs, “The zoos in my country are more like the wild forest, no pits and walls like there are here.” He’d been talking with his friends, back to some trees, when an emu walked out and – pow – bit the top of his head. To this day, I think he still has a great dislike of emus, holding a grudge in response to the actions of that one.

As a generality, I like fences, much as I like other boundaries. Boundaries, whether physical or perceived, help us to maintain a respect for each other. Wasn’t it Walt Whitman who wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors” – or was it Robert Frost?


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