Thursday, March 6, 2008


My mom lives in a condo across from the lighthouse. The complex consists of four buildings, each two stories. Hers is on the backside, second story and, therefore, the only view of the lake is from her deck (do we call it a deck when it's on a second story?), which is on the south side of the building.

In the spring or summer, the sun is eager to warm the southernmost portion of the deck and it is relaxing to sit there and occasionally catch a glimpse of the freighters through the one spot where trees don't obscure the view of the lake.

The property that is visible from my mom's deck is the Coast Guard's. On it sit the lighthouse, two houses (one of which is the old lighthouse keeper's residence, the other is the old Coast Guard station), a large garage (belonging to the old Coast Guard station), and the new Coast Guard station, completed four years ago. As the new Coast Guard stations is, well, new, it is a very attractive and capable building but does not have the historical appearance of the other buildings and stands out; it doesn't quite flow.

Neither does the fence surrounding the property.

I'm a bit of a nature freak. Just a bit. Nature is a powerful thing; it's the only thing that's ever made me stop and question if there just might be an higher power. The lake, the mountains (recently), etc. have incredible abilities. Still, there is nothing more amazing to me than observing the best of what man can create coupled with nature.

It's why walking down by the river and seeing the bridges above the border of where the river becomes the lake makes me smile. It's why I love to see a massive freighter floating beneath them. It's why I love the skyline of a big city.

Unfortunately, for every grand thing that can be accomplished by the best of man, a sin against it is committed by the worst.

That's why we need fences.

Homeowners put up privacy fences and then paint them or stain them to make them look more attractive. It's almost become a status symbol: a big privacy fence surrounding the backyard of a home situated on a well-manicured lawn. To me, the very act of making the privacy fence more attractive is a rarely pondered admission that the landscape it obscures is finer.

Along with our privacy fences are the unwritten rules of governance that imply who is allowed the privledge of viewing our landscape (which is interrupted by the even less attractive backside of the fence). There are very valid reasons to erect a privacy fence, of course. It's too bad we should have to.

Chain link fences, like the one protecting the Coast Guard property, are the worst. They can't be disguised as an effort to keep up with the Jones'. At least they're honest.

Every fence I've ever encountered has a gate. Unless it's chained and locked, like the one protecting the Coast Guard property, the fence isn't much of a deterrent. Small children can still be seduced to cross the boundary once they learn how to operate it and the worst of man can still be seduced in when the need arises.

Really, most fences do nothing but create the illusion of protection. We protect ourselves or set boundaries for our possessions.

And they fuck up the landscape.

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