On Fences: Sharing a Vista - and Much More
Editor Scott Omelianuk on fences
The editor on his deck, with open views of neighboring yards.
It's part of the American myth, as deep as the Grand Canyon and as broad as the land from sea to shining sea. You know, the wide-open-spaces thing: riding to the ridge where the West commences, gazing at the moon 'til you lose your senses, being unable to look at hobbles or stand fences, and—with all due respect to the butchering I've just done to Cole Porter—not wanting to be fenced in.
One thing I love about my house in the city: It's not anything like the open range, and my back forty is only (quite literally) 40 feet by 20 feet, but see there, over my shoulder? That's the view across our neighborhood. “It looks like a botanical garden back here,” the arborist Vic said when he came over to do some trimming a few weeks ago, and he's right—a pretty, block-long vista of spring-blooming trees, cascading green vines, and shade-friendly flowering perennials. Not exactly what you'd expect to find in a city that manages to pack 52,000 souls into one-mile square.
And it's all because of that lack of fences, or, in our case, the presence of low chain fences that function more like trellises than a fort's pickets.
Recently, though, new people have moved into the old 'hood and brought with them the idea that it's best to be isolated. In such a densely packed place, there are only two ways to do that: Never leave the house, or put up solid-wood fencing 6 or 8 feet high, and that's a shame.
You see, I don't really agree with that other American poet, Robert Frost, and his “good fences make good neighbors.” To me, good fences make for a bad neighborhood and neighbors I'll get to know as well as a criminal in a high-walled prison yard, which, come to think of it, these newly planted palisades resemble.
I don't know; I'm surely not one of those people who thinks yesterdays were the best days, but there's definitely something to be said for how we used to watch the block's children grow up, have a chat about flowers with a neighbor two doors down, or, just because we were outside at the same time, end up at an impromptu communal dinner with the kids playing together deep into a warm summer night.
Fortunately, I'm not the only one who thinks this way. In fact, in this very issue, our All-American issue, you'll see proof in the folks who are remaking Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, and in a young couple who have created a vibrant community around their small sustainable farm. I think you'll like them. They're interesting, engaging, decent people. Like the ones we used to have, before the fences came.