Wednesday, September 17, 2014


There are two sides to a fence, the side you are on and the other side. But, fences can define the quality of space as well. Sometimes we want to be on the other side because the grass looks greener, or we imagine being free of the place we are in, and sometimes we want protection from what might be on the other side.

I fancy the rough cut Latilla fence surrounding our yard. It is made of aspen poles now attractively pealing and graying with age. This fence is more than a definition of territorial boundaries.  It is a magic border between realities. On the other sides north, south and east are the territories of our next-door neighbors. They and we appreciate these delineations. On the open west side is a cul-de-sac and the asphalt trail out of this small neighborhood into the greater world.

George the cat is now lying under the large Chamisa bush guarding the northeast fence corner of our designated sector in this cluster of homes know by the inspired realtor name, Chamisa Mesa. Chamisa means weed in Spanish but that is a derogatory title for various hardy plant species that have the audacity to fight successfully against human takeover.  I’m no exception; I too fight against ragweed and several other common species of filler plants holding the earth in place after humans bulldoze native plants such as Chamisa and sage. Around here, developers clear land for proposed building projects and then they abandon the naked earth for another five years, or so it seems. Quick to the rescue, Ragweed and Tumbleweed are our only defenders against the eastbound dust storms that would otherwise blow much of Taos County over the mountains into Oklahoma and Texas.
Curious George under the Chamisa bush.
Since aspen Latilla fences have cat sized gaps in various places along the bottom and make an excellent highway with a view from the top, they are freedom for cats while functioning as borders for humans and dogs. Our cat friends spend most of their time close to home but just on the other side of the latia fence. 

Adventure begins through one of three gaps at the bottom of the fence. These openings remind me of the magic wardrobe in C. S. Lewis’ Narnia stories. To the east, a thick mysterious jungle of tall weeds beckons to feline instincts. Our neighbor to the north has a green shade-covered oasis, and on the south is a yard full of large barking dogs. At night, beyond the perimeters of this story, in the wild world that awakens long after the chirping prairie dogs bed down, coyotes howl, and skunks silently and odiferously wander about.  These natives transcend fences altogether.

Fences make definitions and that is their power and danger. Identity and self-concept are mental fences. When I was a child, I used fences the way the cats do. Somehow, I lost the spirit of adventure, or more accurately, decided to stay inside the more groomed side of the fence in order to make a living the way cats agree to spend the night inside for the sake of a ready made meal.  I never made a very good living and always thought I would someday get back to my instinctive life, but didn’t know how to make that happen. Too often, I’ve slipped through the hole in a fence to find myself in an even smaller uglier place and horrified to discover the hole gone when I turned to find my way out. Magic is neutral. It works on all sides.
A field of purple Asters on the Rez this morning.

Nature triumphs in the end, and it isn’t natural to fence ourselves into very small spaces. I once inherited enough money to quit my last mind-numbing job. Of course, I knew it was freedom with a short rope (I think that is an oxymoron) since it wasn’t a fortune. It was my first taste of a life free of the challenge of stretching a Taos sized income all the way across a month.  Last year, I reluctantly agreed to do some limited photography and web updates for my old employer but couldn’t force myself to finish, although that was the only part of that old job that I once enjoyed. It actually made me sick. I think my retail days have passed.

Right now, I’m very busy just managing our everyday life. It is a different scene now that PQ and I are together plus his lung disease means that I do both the outdoor and indoor work. However, the garage is ready to use as a studio. PQ already finished two paintings and I plan to start painting again soon. Doing something creative unleashes the vortices of change. I sense that instead of winning a lottery, which would keep me comfortable in the same enclosure, I’m supposed to keep my eyes sharp for previously overlooked openings in the fence. The odds are much better.

1 comment:

  1. This is particularly meaningful for me this morning. Thank you.