by Henry Swain
All of us came into this world through a gate into a field of dreams. We do not know how long the field is until we find the exit gate with our name on it on the other side. Religions try but fail to explain why the field is larger for some, but smaller for others.
We come into this world with no say in the matter. Most leave it with no say in the matter except for those few who choose suicide. But what happens in between does matter.
A number of us who recently paid our property taxes spent some time with the Tax Review Board rectifying errors. Much of the time I spent with them was in reviewing the borders of the divisions made in original square forty acres we purchased in l947.
When we bought our land I walked the borders of the square forty with Ora Voland, the County Surveyor at the time. We found the original four cornerstones. With a hand held compass we walked an imaginary line from stone to stone till we returned to our starting point.
As long as we pay the taxes on it, the government states that we own it. But we really don’t. It was here long before humans and governments. We are but temporary occupiers, imposters some would say by the way we sometimes treat it. It will remain long after humans no longer use it.
Frost’s poem The Mending Wall tells of the setting of a stone wall between his property and that of his neighbor. I share a pertinent line from his poem. “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall that wants it down. 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 offence.”
Most borders are imaginary walls. Borders represented by real walls almost always represent human failure, not in construction, but of human spirit—the Great Wall of China, the Berlin wall, the wall Israel is now building to separate itself from Palestine.
I was impressed by the comments of one of the astronauts when asked what his feelings were upon first looking down at the earth from space. He said, “I was struck by how much it looked like the globe on my teacher’s desk in grade school. The second day I realized that was only true for the continents and the oceans. From space there are no visible borders identifying nations.”
Much of the tragedy and misery of recorded human history can be traced to the defending of territorial borders or the breaching of them. The human habit of war could be claimed to be of genetic disposition so intent are we at repeating it.
There are other more subtle borders, which we often impose upon ourselves. Our prejudices can become homemade prisons that incarcerate us unless we find the keys of tolerance and forgiveness to free us.
Bad habits can chain us in place if we do not find ways to break them. When we cease to dare life we handcuff ourselves. By holding to the safety of our caution, the potential of who we might have become is forever lost.
Frost ends his poem by repeating his neighbor’s saying, “Good fences make good neighbors.” In the phrase of computer language, I would like to upgrade his saying. “Good neighbors don’t need fences.”
Since this is the beginning of a new year, I suggest we all check the borders in our lives. Some may be past due for erasing. This January/February issue of Our Brown County gives Cindy Steele, the editor and publisher, a break to tidy up the loose ends of her life before the March issue. It also removes the pitchfork of a deadline for me to come up with a story each month. I will leave you with a border ( ) which I hope to fill by March. Have a borderless new year.