A few weeks ago we spent a day fencing. We needed this fence. The goats needed more pasture. The pasture was sitting there, waiting behind the barn, but we couldn’t use it because the fence wouldn’t keep the goats contained or safe. So, we built a new one.

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There are few things more important on a farm, even a teeny tiny farm like ours, than a good fence. But really, I’m not such a fan. I don’t really like the way fences divide things up. This is mine and this is yours.

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I know why we need them. They keep the valuable things safe inside, and the dangers far removed outside. They keep the boy goat from spending too much time with the girl goats. They keep the animals from wandering away and getting lost or stolen or hit by a vehicle on the road. They identify what belongs to who. They establish boundaries.

There’s been lots written about boundaries. Healthy boundaries. How to say no, how to create your own safe space, how to live more freely within the safety of your clearly defined limitations.

But sometimes I imagine a world (a family, a church, a life) without quite so many of them. Where protection or identification or separation wasn’t quite so important, and where I put more emphasis on openness, sharing, and giving my life away.

Fences have their places, I know, but so does vulnerability.

Mending Wall, 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 outdoor 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.'
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