April 1, 2010: “Good fences make. . .”

[Dedicated to Anne Kuckro, January 4, 1945 – March 10, 2010, whose dedication to Wethersfield CT’s historic preservation and to beauty and aesthetics were remarkable.]

This morning as I sat at my computer, I heard several voices in the side yard of the 6-unit condo building next door. A peek out my study window revealed two workmen carrying fencing poles, directed by the building’s often-gone-missing handyman. Next appeared sections of (unpainted, crudely-made) stockade fencing which were stacked against the Norway maples between our yards. An April Fool’s Joke?

You see, my husband and I had recently torn down the six-feet-tall fencing between our two yards (well, let’s be honest: He did. I just came up with the idea.) and now there’s a charming and graceful stone wall, maybe two feet tall, between us.

Like many writers, I often work in my pajamas and robe so in the time it took me to get showered and dressed in order to confront those bozos, I had worked myself up into a real hissy fit—AND was alternately appalled at how appalled I was.

The hissy fit went like this: “Those horrible people! How dare they! How can they erect a fence without even discussing it with us? And it’s so ugly. It’ll completely ruin that open and natural area. I know there was a break-in in that first-floor unit but, really, if those condo people want security, there are a zillion other ways to make that building more safe than by erecting an ugly, obstructing fence!”

The appalled dialogue went like this: “I live in a city. The economy is terrible. It’s elitist and irrational to care about  how my side yard looks when people are out of work, losing their homes, etc, etc.”

But you know what? You can be passionate about social injustice AND care about how things look.

Finally dressed, I went outside. “Hi,” I said, trying to keep the shrill out my voice. “Where’s this fence going?”

“In the back,” the handyman told me, putting his hand on my (indignant) shoulder.

“Phew,” I replied. “I was afraid it was—”

“Oh, no, no no!” the handyman assured me. “I like your stone wall. Nice and open. Looks nice.”

Yes, it does. That stone wall, so very very New England, fits. And although erected this past fall, it’s already timeless. Historic.

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