of walls and bridges…
been thinking a lot about walls and bridges this week, because it seems the only thing to do about a wall is to try to build a bridge. something of a wall––a six-foot-three-inch, solid-cedar wall––was dropped into our little world this week. it’s a wall i’d known was coming. a wall i’d been warned was on the wishlist all of three years ago. that’s a lot of breath-holding, spring to fall to summer, again and again and again. but held it i did. savored every drop of sunlight shafting in. counted my blessings in dapplings and plashes of sunshine’s incandescence, delighted in the way the light danced upon the wicker and the shingled walls of the little room we call “the summer house.” stood there just soaking in the breeze.
it’s gone now.
and once i cried (the day i heard it’d been ordered, paid for, and soon to be arriving), once i dried those tears, i did what mightier folk than me have shown me what to do, and how to do it: how to build a bridge. starts with chin up, and turn the better cheek. if a wall was coming and i couldn’t stop it, i pretty much shrugged my shoulders and decided i’d take it like a grownup, take it with as open a heart as i could muster. and i’ve been mustering. all summer we’ve been gardening side by side, my next-door-neighbor friend and i. i dug up all the plants that wouldn’t grow in the dark at my house, and now they’re growing in the light at hers. on her side of the six-foot-three-inch fence.
since i’ve been at this digging thing for a few decades now, i’ve told her the few secrets and wise things i’ve learned the hard way. fact is, she’s smart as a whip and a whip-crack study, figures things out in a flash. and best of all she’s not afraid to get her hands muddy, or to spend a whole darn day on her hands and knees scrubbing. i’d say there’s grown genuine affection in our weeks of garden talk. we’ve sprouted something even a wall can’t eclipse.
and then this week the fence was no longer something i needed to picture in my head; it’s right outside, the whole long stretch of it. i wish it was a picket. i wish it let even a little dab of light through, but it doesn’t.
once the sun slides low, it gets dark out there. the light no longer plays.
so i got to work digging. dug myself a garden plot where before there’d been an isthmus of grassy lawn that stretched without end, it seemed. my old garden––along the western edge, a patch of peonies, an oak leaf hydrangea, some happy happy ferns––it’s pinched and stunted in mid-sentence it seems. things will need to be moved, and the few i moved already, to escape the metal posts being banged into the ground, they seem to have died in protest.
but i’ve a new garden now. one that will catch the morning sun. one i’ll delight in, once it starts to bloom. once the butterflies come in, and the birds nibble at the seed, and the bumblebees imbibe the succulence. and three years ago i bought myself a fantabulous bird house that will rise up on a bird-house post from somewhere in that garden, and it will be the pretty thing my eye is drawn to, the birds are drawn to. and i intend to come to love what i’ll pretend is my cloister garth. my place to soak in the sacred that animates this holy earth.
it’s not the only bridge i had to build this week, which got me to thinking hard about the ways i want to live my life. i will always always try to be the one to turn the other cheek. to search for the glowing heart of humanity –– or do i mean the sacred? the divinity? –– buried deep down inside, in the shadow of whatever hurts and scars have made it hard to see. i turned to thinking about the long line of blessed radicals, even the one whose name has been so deeply abused by so-called christians. i thought about the good samaritan. i thought about gandhi and martin luther king, jr. i thought about how, in the face of hurling hatreds, they listened only to the sound of love. how they always, always chose the bridge, and broke the walls.
what it really means to practice love is to do it when it’s hard. when things you dearly love are being taken away. when ones you love are sometimes even the ones doing the hurting. whatever are the million things that make it hard to muster, to offer, to model, to practice love.
we all need practice. it’s try and try and try again. stumble, skin your knees, and try again. the question is: will we try, or will we walk away, and leave a trail of hurt and hearts that only serve to harden?
and while i was thinking of all that, i stumbled on these words that fell right in line with all my thinking of walls and bridges…
we need a bridge and sometimes we are thepaul boynton
bridge. No one I know has escaped
troubled waters, rough seas and challenging,
scary days. There are times in our lives
when we could use a little help, and other
times when we are given the chance to be
that help for someone else. It really doesn’t
matter where you are right now. What
matters is that you remember we are
stronger together, and taking a hand is
just as important as offering one.
what bridges are begging to be built in your world this week? (a question for quiet contemplation….no self-disclosure needed…)
so far i’ve built a path of limestone stepping stones in what’s now a skinny gangway between garage and fence, but it’ll some day have a picket gate, and i plan to line that stretch of fence with avian residences (aka bird houses) and i need to find wee plants that don’t mind growing in the dark. and today, since my page proofs still aren’t here, i’m headed to the nursery to pluck myself some bushes that will bloom in spring and blossom into berries when the autumn comes. and there’s a long list of perennials i’ve always wished i had a place for, and now i do. so my bridge promises delight even in its earliest iterations.
Sweet bam, you are the only person who would work alongside — and give to — the person who was about to change your haven so drastically. I am so sorry about the fence, but glad that you are beautifying your side of it. Sit in the wicker facing away from the fence view in your sweet summer house. You are dear, too, to “always turn the other cheek.” I have my limits and am not beyond closing the door forever. I’d been hoping, since it’s been so long, that they’d given up the fence idea. Sorry 😢 dear heart.
ah, doll, but truth is there is selfishness too inside the working alongside, because it would sicken me to spend my nights and days inside a tiny world of sharp glances and chills in the air. it’s so much better to be able to take deep breaths and feel warm drafts blowing over that fence. and i love the discovery of what lies beyond that which appears at first or second glance. there must be reasons for wanting such high-walled fences….
You are so wise. Yes, I can feel all that. Good for you. ❤️
I know you will make lemonade of this, Barbie, perhaps embracing this fresh new ‘canvas’ as a perfect spot for a lovely garden mural, complete with reflective/mirror sections to provide an extra bounce of light from the other side of the day. Sunny blessings, dear friend.
it is a canvas. though sometimes i still gulp. but i stumbled upon a few balms at the nursery yesterday, and a dear dear old friend with way more digging muscles than me is coming today to help me dig holes. by nightfall i might have new places for birds to land, to pluck berries, and leaves to drink in the morning sun….
it might take a while to feel quite cloister-ish, but imagination is an integral tool in a gardener’s supply kit. xoxo sending hugs to you up high in the mountains, beautiful joanie. xox
Ohhh…every moment of every aging day there are bridges to be crossed. How different it would be to stay in one little house, village, area without having to cross a bridge, take risks, and see another side. Today was a boon of reminders that travel across bridges is the only way to learn, stretch and grow, even amid some loss. Love you to bits…
“every moment of every aging day….” (i mistyped that the first time as “every moment of every bridging day….”
i love this perspective on bridges. on considering what it brings us when we cross……
may our lives be Golden Gate Bridges…..
It blows my mind that your neighbor chose not to tell you why the cedar fence was necessary…especially such a tall, solid barrier. Many years ago a neighbor of mine erected a similar enclosure without any forewarning. She referred to it as her “beautiful privacy fence”, so I didn’t have to wonder why she’d built it. Little did she know, however, that when she thought that she was safely sunning herself in her back yard buck naked, our family had a birds-eye-view of her in all her splendor from each and every second floor window of our house! I hope that all went well getting Ted back to school for his senior year and that you soon adjust to the quiet.❤️
Oh BAM…no way to explain this action…barrier…but of course you are choosing to bridge the divide. Thank you for reminding me of the peace in taking the high road..
I was planting like a little fiend and it will be lovely. My walled garden. Xox