Even a Pretty Fence is Still a Fence

Grill Work

A Pretty Fence is Still a Fence © 2012 Bo Mackison

Fear is the highest fence. ~ Dudley Nichols

There was a time I thought that fences kept people safe.

Fences also kept gardens safe from critters and animals safe from speeding cars traveling too fast on highways.

Then I listened to a woman who had moved from New York to a rural area in southeast Arizona. She was lamenting the cussedness of birds determined to feed from her green garden. That, despite the wire fences she had installed around the garden perimeter and the netting she had arched from the top of the fence – a roof of sorts – over her tempting vegetables.

I turned away to study the art in the gallery. I couldn’t help but smile as she told of the thieving Gambel’s Quails’ and Roadrunners’ antics as they dined four times a day, courtesy of her bountiful garden.

I imagined the birds’ antics as she described them in detail. “The quails fly straight up like a helicopter, then they squeeze between the wire fence and the netting, and land in the midst of the luscious greens.” She described how the roadrunners were the sneakiest trespassers of all, but their antics to get into this Fort Knox style vegetable garden surpassed my understanding.

However, the ex-Manhattan-stock-broker-turned-country-vegetable-gardener, apparently knew the secrets of those ransacking roadrunners who watched her from mid-garden as they nibbled their lunch, waiting until she was just close enough with a broom before disappearing.

Did the birds have no fear? Just instincts, determination, and a plan?

I wish I had been able to follow all the details, because I wanted to hear about the birds’ escapes. I’m not privy to how these intelligent birds had a their own passport to the private garden. But they apparently they had at least an equivalent.

There are few fences on the open range, even when roads pass through. There are cautionary signs — “Range Animals. Be Aware.” I seldom see an animal venture on the back roads I travel. They are in the thorn scrub and grasslands, eating whatever they can find. They don’t graze on dirt roads. I have seen cattle amble across a road, but never linger. Better to walk amidst the grasses and eat while roaming the scrub.

Perhaps I don’t need the fences I erect around myself to keep safe, either.

It feels better to have free range and not be cooped up in an imaginary safe place. After all, even surrounded by the best of fences, those that want to get in — quails and roadrunners, for example — have their ways.

And now back to the quote that started me thinking about fences on this clear morning in southern Arizona.

Fear is the highest fence. ~ Dudley Nichols

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Interesting and thought provoking post. Curiously enough the fear fence only works one way. It keeps us away from whatever it is we fearm, but can’t keep out the “bad thing” whataever it might be.

  2. Powerful quote, Bo, and interesting thoughts. It IS a pretty fence, but you’re right. It’s still a fence.

  3. A fence has two sides–so whether you are kept out or fenced in depends on your point of view.

  4. This post speaks to me so clearly. I tend to build fences, but I continue the process of dismantling them.

  5. As usual, a fascinating blog post that has my mind going in many directions…however I cannot escape the phrase “…the cussedness of birds…!” That will remain with me through my days…thanks for that!

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