Wind dropped a tree across a friend’s fence, providing an unnoticed opportunity for the dogs to sojourn. Luckily, they missed it. Wind caught the wisteria that drapes across my backyard fence, and helped break a 4×4 post. Impressive. Fences are useful for keeping in the dogs and sometimes holding up the foliage. Lately, a number of projects have involved reaching across fences to allow collaborations as people try new ways to express themselves and possibly pay the bills.
Bicycling across America (buy the book) and walking across Scotland (stay tuned) taught me that two of civilization’s pervasive inventions are pavement and fences. Outside cities, the land along paths, lanes, roads, and highways is cordoned by stone, wire, or wood. Scotland commonly had all three. Hedgerows, living wood, grow beside stone walls that stand beside wire fencing. We are so determined to display territorial boundaries that I seriously wonder about the investment possibilities. I doubt there’s any pure-play fencing stocks. I’ll check later. It is pervasive though. Thousands of miles of fencing undoubtedly cost millions. Most of it is there for good reasons, mainly for containing animals. In the city we can defend turf by defining property lines or hollering at the kids to get off the lawn. In the rest of the world though, negotiations with wandering livestock and migrating herds are useless despite their danger to travelers.
It is too easy to erect and maintain personal fences and boundaries. People who are different are mentally herded to other pastures. Recluses take that to an extreme. Hermits know they want a world of one.
I’m a people person, part time gregarious and extroverted enjoying teaching classes or hosting parties, and part time quiet and introverted writing or producing my photo essays or simply pondering. I hop fences a lot, metaphorically. Maybe the grass is greener on the other side.
Lately I’ve had fun collaborating with some talented friends, reaching beyond my fenced off creative realm. Wynn Allen and I made a video of Langley called Two Guys Walking Around Langley. Tristan Bach used my photos and his music to create a series of nature videos based on Washington’s Cascades. There are other collaborations running about but those can be celebrated for having reached their goals of being completed, uploaded, and made available for all to see.
Collaborations can happen within fenced boundaries. Writers create compilations and anthologies. Musicians create bands and orchestras. I’m involved in a few of those too, sometimes as a contributor, sometimes as a consultant. Collaborations within a common field enjoy common vocabulary and perspective.
I think the world needs a few fewer fences, or at least lower ones that make it easier to cross over and visit other fields.
The video Wynn and I did of Langley was mostly for the fun of it. Of course it gives both of us a bit more publicity, for what we do within our talent territories: him for his writing, acting and professorial career; me for my writing, photography, consulting, and social innovation endeavours. In large part though, we did it for the city and its economy. We did it unofficially and for no fee instead as part of a formal, rigid fenced-in process and protocol. We mentioned it to a city official or two, and checked in with random shop owners, but what we relied on most was our appreciation for our place. For the cost of walking around a place we’ve both walked around, and a few hours editing the raw material, we were able to produce a video that may appeal to tourists that want something less formal than professional productions, and something that may produce a chuckle or two for us locals. If tourism benefits and some people laugh, we succeeded.
Tristan’s work was a nice transition from the videos I produced from my Whidbey Twelve Month series where I did the voice-over based on the books. By letting someone else work with my work, I got to see my work from a new perspective. Tristan got a chance to demonstrate his musical skills. I get to point to my books, photos, and cards. It cost us nothing but a bit of time. Tristan did most of the work, but he was so efficient that very few days went by from start to uploaded. That impressed me, but it may not be apparent that the works were original and he created both the music and the video within very little time. I already have heard that some appreciate the slower pace of his presentation. I’ll keep that in mind for any of my subsequent work.
It’s the holidays and there are plenty of messages about everybody getting along, if not every day throughout the year, then at least through the season, or at least during the family visit, or at least as long as everyone’s sitting at the dinner table. The messages are there because getting along, tolerance, acceptance of others eases stress the more people practice it, and making life easier is a fine example of a common life goal. A less stressful life is more valuable than anything for sale in the mall.
For those that want higher, more dangerous fences, or think verbal fencing with jibes and thrusts is somehow the way everyone should act, I think we should accommodate them. Let them build one really big circular fence as long as they herd themselves inside it and then cover it with an acoustical cap. Imagine penned-in politicians and pundits. Maybe then, outside the walls, we can get back to statesmen and stateswomen, and balanced, considerate discussions.
In the meantime, the holidays are an excuse for me to consider friends and family from their perspectives, from what their lives show them; and a time to collaborate on important projects like dining, dancing, playing games, and basically having fun together. Sometimes I’ve found that after I’ve hopped the fence around my comfort zone, I find yet another comfort zone. That’s a gift to share.