We moved into this house when I was five. People will say six, and I wonder why. I had just started Kindergarten in downtown Lynnwood, just off of 44th West. It had been paved by then. The road was dirt when our family moved there, no freeway exits to Lynnwood. The town was too obscure. Maybe the paving was too much. We moved.
There are pictures of the new house. The one I live in now. The new house, 49 years ago. Mom and Dad had it built, and the yard was all dirt and rocks.
We owned two English Bull Dogs. Their papered names were Friar Tuck and Williams Was Her Name, but Tuffy and Wiz to those who knew them best. A fence was required. They needed to be kept in. And so a whole lot of boards and a whole lot of effort created a barrier for the half acre backyard. It still stands, or sorta stands.
The fence keeps nothing in now. Yesterday I watched the neighbor’s dog. He came to the edge of the property line. He pushed on a loose board. The wood shifted and fell in. The fence, ideally, would keep the neighbor dogs out.
Pema Chodron told a story once about how we create our own barriers, how we close to the world. We look at what is around us, and we call it ugly or wrong or undesirable. We shrink away, hiding, say, in an apartment. We make that space perfect, only allow what is wanted, what is desirable. Perfect furnishings, perfect food ordered to the door. But the sun shines in the windows and blinds us, and we need drapes. One neighbor plays horrible music and we need earplugs. The scent of foreign foods drifts in under the door to the hallway, and we block the gap with a towel. Our world grows smaller and smaller. Our hearts grow tighter and tighter.
What are we fencing out? And worse, perhaps, what are we fencing in? In this time of isolation, it is easy to create a barrier so thick that no dog can push it in. And, will we ever get out?