August 6, 2007

The spirituality of fences

"My instinct is always to enclose myself, like a hibernating animal."
- Anne Scott-James

In some settings, fences are needed for privacy (I wouldn't like people seeing me in my nightgown or scantily dressed). Fences can be for keeping tools, and furniture from sprouting legs and walking off. (The ambience of a candlelight dinner in the yard would be something less than congenial if everything was tied together with a series of chains to a tree.) Then there's fences for keeping animals in, or in our case, animals out.

Fences can define areas. I look at yards and landscaping and ask myself what I like about the settings or pictures I'm attracted to. Is it just the color/s, or design, or is it nostalgia?

Picket fences have a nostalgia about them. I don't know what exactly it is. Maybe it's some era of the past I imagine as an attractive lifestyle. Would putting a picket fence around our yard create that lifestyle?

Rambling rock walls evoke nice emotions in me too. Am I imagining a pastoral scene of peace with nice green grass, a few scattered white fluffy sheep with black faces, and cottage gardens?

I've always been attracted to split-rail fences too. In the west we have more arid landscapes with lots of wide open spaces. We've done versions of western fences with dead lodgepole pines around us, but over time they all rot and break. We're now ready for official cedar split-rail.

I've evaluated fencing on a spiritual level too. We internally tend to build fences for privacy and a sense of security. We want to feel safe. Defining boundaries is a good thing. In scripture the imagery of sheep and shepherd is often used. Sheep pens are fenced boundaries of safety and the shepherd leads them in and out. Sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd.

I've pondered that 'knowing the voice of my shepherd'. Why, if I just desire privacy, security and safety, would I want to leave my fence pen? Why would I need a shepherd? Is that all I desire for life? Wouldn't I want to leave the pen and wander where there's fresh water, food and scenery? Don't I want real life better than I could imagine?!

Life outside of fences is adventurous, messy, and scary. Outside of fences I need to, I want to, know the voice of my shepherd and follow.
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