The sky was an eerie haze of yellowish brown as I returned home from East Texas this weekend. My friend and I saw the beginnings of two huge (but separate) fires that – oddly enough – both began behind gas stations. Meanwhile, a 60-mile an hour wind ripped through my back yard, taking down three sections of our fence. At least one section was not a surprise as it was greatly weakened during our last wind storm. Now I have to be cognizant as I walk through my living room as to what I am wearing, since my neighbor can look directly into…or even walk into my backyard from theirs. Irie has gone swimming no less than 5 times in their swimming pool already. Their three dogs and ours have enjoyed getting to chase one another across the expanse of our two backyards put together, as opposed to being limited to a jaunt along the fence line.
Already, we have spoken with our neighbor more in the past two days than we have the entire four years we have lived here. I now remember their four boys’ names, know they have three dogs (I thought they only had one), even know where their oldest son is heading to college next year (I didn’t even know he was old enough). One of their sons finished helping me dig out M’s sandbox that I’m making. This is the type of relationship I longed for when we first moved in. I miss that sense of community with neighbors. Things like fences and garage door openers (open the door, drive in, close the door, go into your house – without even the opportunity to interact with your neighbor) make it easy for us to live separate, disconnected lives. At the time, we didn’t have a child to naturally bridge the gap. I tried to get to know my neighbors, but it was just too easy not to when they didn’t respond with open arms.
It saddens me that we put up these fences to keep people out and our lives private. Fences like cell phones, iPods, and email. Fences like stereotypes, assumptions and arrogant independence. We are so individually focused that we forsake the idea of community. But we were meant to live in community! Let’s open up our lives, allow the wind to knock down a few sections of fence and get to know our neighbors.
Photo: Fence trouble, 2007