A wall that doesn’t scream Keep Out

01 May 2019 | 01:47

    Long before the Border Wall, fences have been provocative: keeping something in or out; the good side, the bad side. The idea seems to slice the world into two clear pieces, us and them. Life is more complicated and subtle than that. Young Robert Frost got right to it in his 1914 poem, Mending Wall, which begins:

    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.

    I’ve been experimenting with fencing that does not immediately scream Keep Out. It started after the Tropical Storms Irene (2011) and Sandy (2012). My village property was strewn with downed trees and snapped branches. I began by just tidying up the fallen branches in piles near the property line. I’d clip or chainsaw them as straight as possible. The stacks kept growing all along the back of my property, then the side, then along the back of my neighbor’s property and recently onto the local Community Center where there’s a Nature Play area. I now call them “debris fences.”

    Debris Fence Building is a dreamy, meditative activity well-suited to people who want to try to make order and beauty out of the random elements of nature. Debris fences can be short, tall, thin, fat, straight, wavy and curving around trees and over rocks. They quickly become home to chipmunks and foxes and woodchuck burrows. Deer can usually jump them easily and have been heard laughing as they do it.

    Debris fences are in a perpetual state of decay, returning themselves into the earth. They ask for a bit of care, more debris and restacking. This makes them offensive to Fence Traditionalists who believe that a fence should be strong and forever, made from riven black locust or red cedar logs, not windfall Norway maple twigs.

    This is a very different approach, softer, gentler, playful, organic. Come take a look at the 3 Pines Nature Place at the Warwick Valley Community Center.

    Daniel Mack