There is no doubt that I am “that” girl who likes the chore of mending fences. I am not sure if it is the being out in the wide open spaces that speaks to me, or hearing nothing but the birds, bugs, the wind blowing in the reedy grass, or the fact that you can look back down the fence line and see the work that you have just completed, or the being so dog tired at the end of the day that your mind has no other option that to be still….
I particularly love old wooden fences that tell stories of a weathered past. The things they have withstood … now, being shored up by rocks and twine and rope. Mended; brought back to integrity. Redeemed to do the job it was intended to do. I love knowing that I was one that strapped on my work gloves and made that happen.
I believe in doing the hard work for those things that are redeemable. The key for me is, is there integrity left to it? Mending a fence, that is simply destined to find itself in the same broken down mess , begging for repairs again in a very short order, seems futile.
I’ve seen people do it. I have watched them wear themselves out over it. Coming up exhausted and bloodied time and time again hoping that “this time” it will somehow take. It’s the Rancher’s Dance.
The day I took this photo there were people out in the field, not to repair it, but to take sections of it down, I was captivated by what I saw, so I pulled over. From across the road I hollered my hellos and asked it I could shoot some photos. They graciously said yes. One of the older ladies came across the road to chat. In our conversation I learned that this was her homestead. She was now in her eighty’s and it was obvious this was hallowed ground for her.
She went on to share part of it’s history, memories of what it held, showing me scars on her now fragile and twisted hands. Those scars, now trophies of a life build and lived and mended along this old fence line.
I asked her why they were taking it down…. “some fences cannot be mended” I heard her almost whisper.. I wondered if we were still talking about this old wooden fence, or if in her mind, she had gone somewhere else.
I noticed how small she looked. Tired and fragile. Yet in blue jeans and boots, her messy silver hair pulled up into a frazzled looking bun… with whispers of curls hanging from it. There was an elegance about her, yet every line telling a story.
As I watched her in silence, aware that she had now gone somewhere in her mind that only she knew, I was interrupted by the two that were with her. I learned they were her son and great grand-daughter.
The girl was bubbly – interjecting that she was a newly wed and and lived on the west side of the state. I could almost see in her, a younger version of her grandma. Slender, stately, red curly hair. She quickly shared that she was taking pieces of her great-grandma’s prized fence home to be cut down and made into photo frame. Pictures, she said, of her great grandma when she was just her great-grand daughters age. “I wore her dress you know…” when I got married. She pulled out her cell phone and circled around to find signal. As if planned, the photo popped up. Stunning. A simple yet elegant silky slip like dress……
I could see the love in the eyes of both women. I wondered what memories they shared and which ones have gone un- spoken.
I have thought a lot about her and her beloved fence the last couple of days. Her warning, haunting me; as I hear it echo through out my heart. “Some fences cannot be mended.” It is a sad that some cannot. When the integrity of the material is lost, there is nothing to build on, and the purpose it was built for is no more.
I have been surrounded by old wood this week.. Not just memories of old fences, but that of old barns, as I work on a story for a paper I write for, challenged to by the brilliance of holding on to just enough of the past to remind you of the good stuff.
Yesterday I stood in front of a wall with pieces of old family barns that serves as mounts for name plaques. I listened to videos of families sharing pieces, the good pieces, of their family history. I recalled the sparkle in the great-grand-daughters eyes as she talked about using this wood to encase her treasured photos of her beloved.
As I stood in front of the barn wood plaques I wondered, Perhaps mending fences isn’t always about restoring something to it’s sameness. But rather, what if, it is about carving out pieces, even small pieces, of what it was and honoring that.
There can be a sadness when dismantling something that served us well, at one point. It can even be hard not to get stuck in the sadness. I wondered where that grandmother went, when she seemed to get lost her in thoughts, what memories she was recalling, were they all good, or was there still pain in them… I will never know for sure.
But what was clear to me, was that she was here to say her good-byes, willing to recall it all, and in her own way, one more time, mend her beloved fence in the only way one could.