Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Mending Wall

As I attempt to bore through the culture shock of returning to the US, it’s the news that’s really tripping me up. After a year and a half or so of getting news online only and selectively picking headlines while pressed for time, it’s crazy coming back to the full bombardment of TV, radio and print – all in a language I understand.

I’ve been chuckling, as I’m sure many have, about the recent news about the fence company working on the Mexican border fence hiring illegal workers. It’s a tricky, complex issue for sure, and one I won’t tackle here except to say that I think it’s certainly just a symptom of underlying, systemic problems – which is where we should be focusing our energies, instead of on fence building.

It also go me thinking about the Shell Global Scenarios and how there is always an element of a kind of “walls” scenario – from back in ’92 with “barriers” through to last year’s with “flags” – in which eroding trust (a big issue on the declining wall of the funnel) hampers the emergence of a global community and a global consciousness, as well as global business and global security. As these thoughts swam around I happened upon an old book of Robert Frost poems – North of Boston – normally the kind of old book you pick up, admire the old pages, wonder how they’re still intact, smell the old-book-smell and put down. But today I flipped through and actually read one, which resonated:

Mending Wall

by Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

The work of hunters is another thing:

I have come after them and made repair

Where they have left not one stone on a stone,

But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,

To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,

No ones has seen them made or heard them


But at spring mending-time we find them there.

I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;

And on a day we meet to walk the line

And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.

To each the boulders that have fallen to each.

And some are loaves and some so nearly balls

We have to use a spell to make them balance:

“Stay where you are until our backs are


We wear our fingers rough with handling them.

Oh, just another kind of out-door game,

One on a side. It comes to little more:

There where it is we do not need the wall:

He is all pine and I am apple orchard.

My apple trees will never get across

And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.

He only says, “Good fences make good neigh-


Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder

If I could put a notion in his head:

Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t


Where there are cows? But here there are no


Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offence.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to


But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather

He said it for himself. I see him there

Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top

In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.

He moves in darkness it seems to me,

Not of woods only and the shade of trees.

He will not go behind his father’s saying,

And he likes having thought of it so well

He says again, “Good fences make good neigh-


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