‘Good fences make good neighbors,’ penned Robert Frost in his poem the Mending Wall. Fences are visible demarcations of boundaries. Either to keep things in or keep things out, depending on our perspective. The lifecycle of a fence is fascinating. Newly constructed fences with upturned soil where fresh posts were recently driven, creating unnatural scars across the landscape, until the new boundary becomes part of our unconscious memory of the landscape. There are untended fences with missing pieces, abandoned fences with silhouettes of their former connections, mended fences with visible repairs and temporary structural scaffolding, and temporary fences, constructed for real-time assistance and deconstructed overnight.
I encountered a line of fence this winter where the fence posts remain, a 4-wheel track on one side and a single track on the other side. The abandoned and loose barb wire had been collected, coiled, and piled safely away from the trails. Yet, the pattern of travel remained, out of habit we dared not cross between the two paths midway down the fence line. A reminder that even after we remove the obstacles tha prevented different ways of travel, mindsets and behaviors will endure.
Just because the fence no longer exists, it may take a new generation of users to blaze a fresh path.