On one hand, they are divine to me because I am a private person. I used to think I was an extrovert; I would tell you that I was the life of any party. And in a way, that was and is still true. Because publicly, I am quite fearless and truly a people-person. But I realize it is with the things I permit you to see about me. Which is really just the surface things. It’s not fake, for that zaniness is authentically me. I very much like to perform, to make people laugh, to mix up the mundane.
But I also have never let anyone actually know all the rest of me underneath that. Eventually, in recent years, I began to, here and there. My work friends could not believe some of the things I had been going through while wearing that smile, while pouring nothing but positivity into my surroundings and into the people I’ve encountered.
I’m a private person. I think I always have been. Even before that one score and four years that scarred and taught me how to keep secrets, to keep my personal reality hidden. Eventually, I even learned how to hide it from myself.
I’ve come to realize after all these years that I think I’ve been an introvert by nature all these years. I have very little desire to go out with friends, to socialize outside of work. Any social engagement seems dutiful and quite boring to me, and I can’t wait for it to be over so I can just write or read or immerse myself in nature. I just prefer my own company. Now that I finally have the freedom and space and time to focus on me, I have found my interests and passions to still stem from that same source within that is self-sustaining. I’ve always had it. But now I can hear the tranquil ripples, I can feel the warmth of the hearth, I can see the soft dawning light. I can produce my own fulfillment, my own contentment, simple but deep and pure happiness. It’s all within me. And it occurs within these privacy fences.
I’m thankful for my home’s privacy fence because my neighbors are more limited in observing and judging my “craziness.” Quite a few times, my neighbor has come out to ask what it is I see as I am taking pictures. It’s “nothing” though. Nothing to others. Just nature. Just in my same backyard. Yet I can easily become endlessly lost in that same backyard every time I step out into it. With nature, no matter how small or large the lot, it’s forever changing, always alive. A million different ways there are to frame the moments. And in each, I see a story.
So I like privacy fences for that. But they also box me in. And I’ve never been a fan of boxes. Even a half-acre one. I’d rather have no fences and some natural space between dwellings. I wish not to be a hermit though. My soul would be most content with distant neighbors outside a small town set in older times…
I have a new privacy fence, finally replaced from the last hurricane. It makes the enclosed feeling seem a bit tighter; I’m not sure I like it. I’m slow to warm to new though, and modern. My soul prefers worn. I think I felt this most in feeling sad for my one-year-old pup with the changes; he was having so much fun playing with the dogs on both sides of us through the temporary makeshift fencing the neighboring men put up. Now he can’t even see them through the slats. It feels a bit suffocating despite us being outdoors. It feels too obvious of a reminder of all the ways we distance ourselves from our neighbors, one another, each other, as supposed brothers and sisters on this planet, the ways fences too easily become walls.
Oddly, I dreamed about fences last night. In my dream, I woke to the new fence being destroyed. People came together to piece together the puzzle. Eight bears had caused the damage in quite a commotion involving some wild pigs. When I was young, I had a recurring dream in which a peculiar character was at the privacy fence; he resembled the Purple Pie Man from Strawberry Shortcake. The fence was the one at my childhood home; I never did fully ever actually see the neighbors partially revealed on the other side. I did spend a lot of time beneath the weeping willow tree though.
I am thankful for my privacy fence so I can spend hours in my yard being as “foolish” and “odd” as I want, less conspicuously, taking photos of the “same” things every day. At the same time, I think I have finally entered the level of healing in which I don’t care what others think of me, so in a way, these privacy fences are counterproductive to my growth. Perhaps that is why they fell down again in my dream. I did not intend to put them back up again…
A favorite poem BY ROBERT FROST
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, And spills the upper boulders in the sun; And makes gaps even two can pass abreast. The work of hunters is another thing: I have come after them and made repair Where they have left not one stone on a stone, But they would have the rabbit out of hiding, To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean, No one has seen them made or heard them made, But at spring mending-time we find them there. I let my neighbor know beyond the hill; And on a day we meet to walk the line And set the wall between us once again. We keep the wall between us as we go. To each the boulders that have fallen to each. And some are loaves and some so nearly balls We have to use a spell to make them balance: ‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’ We wear our fingers rough with handling them. Oh, just another kind of out-door game, One on a side. It comes to little more: There where it is we do not need the wall: 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.’ Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder If I could put a notion in his head: ‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it Where there are cows? But here there are no cows. 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. Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him, But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather He said it for himself. I see him there Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed. He moves in darkness as it seems to me, Not of woods only and the shade of trees. He will not go behind his father’s saying, And he likes having thought of it so well He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’
With the southern summer heat and humidity keeping me indoors most of the time now, I try to get outside every early morning and every evening when it is peak bearable. I very much enjoy having nature largely to myself in the mornings before the world awakens and the bustle begins. This morning, I enjoyed some time on the beach waiting for the storms to roll in (photos in my next post).
Upon leaving the waves, I noticed a frail-looking older man very much struggling to carry all of his (what appeared to be) fishing gear down to the water. Among the items was some sort of thick, wooden log-looking stand. He actually stood still and slowly swayed at one point. My natural instinct was to rush over and help him, offer to carry the gallon of water, at least. But with only a few footsteps between us, I had only moments to both assess and act upon the situation. I couldn’t make out his character. He looked like he may even be a bum. We exchanged friendly greetings, including his chuckling about how he needs a mule, as I continued to walk by. I turned around after I passed him for another glance. By the time I reached my car, the guilt was already heavily coated on me; it felt just as heavy as that gear.
I should have helped him.
I didn’t because although my first instinct came from my heart, my second came from my head. A woman out by herself needs to be careful, doesn’t she? I am still adjusting, post-divorce, to the new safety mentality; my noble steed (Lab mix) I since adopted was not with me. But…we were very much in a public place, far enough from the parking lot and with some other beach witnesses nearby. I made the wrong decision in my haste. Mom would say I made the right one. My deciding factor was concluding he may be a bum. But should that matter? Maybe it should, in other ways…
My soul’s composition simply makes me a kindhearted person with immense compassion who truly struggles with seeing the bad in anyone. To me, he was simply a brother. He was still, even when caution caused me to keep walking instead of being a good Samaritan. I sat in my car and wished I could turn the clock back a few minutes and do what my heart wanted to do. Random moments such as these tend to affect me long afterwards, tend to change me, tend to remain indelibly inside me. It’s just the way I am.
It reminded me of a scene from a friend’s book I had finished reading a couple of days ago. Grant van der Vijver’s reflective mentor character in his debut novel Deeper has a similar experience and explains to younger Luke why he called the homeless man his brother, that he believes in the Native-American philosophy of “Mitakuye Oyasin,” that we are all related. Luke struggles with the concept because he has witnessed so much hate toward others in the world, but his mentor explains that “all that ignorance doesn’t make it untrue.” Luke, like me, recalls the man’s pained eyes, still reflecting on it later that night.
My act of unkindness came with a good heart, good intentions, and good reasons I fell short this time. It may not seem like a big moment in the grand scheme of things, but for me it was. It came with a valuable reminder, a good reason for reflection, a universal one.
I texted my friend about it briefly in the car before heading home, mentioned how you just have to be careful in today’s world as my defense. But as I drove, I reflected even on that. Today’s world is no different, no exception. There has always been potential danger from strangers. There has always been sick, others would say “bad,” people. It makes me think of things that have changed, as well as things that remain the same. It makes me think of human nature. It makes me feel. It makes me want to write.
All because I passed a man at the beach this morning.
And don’t think I didn’t recall Jesus falling under the weight of the cross he carried, or this old song…