Neighbors and Fences — a Second Subtler Approach

       My old New Hampshire home, painting by Marguerite Tanner, 2004

Perhaps it is because I lived for four years by myself in a 5000 square foot 1790 house on 12 acres in rural New Hampshire, but whatever the reason, I have come to believe that neighbors are there for you when you need them, and you are there for them in return. You may not socialize together, you may have totally different philosophies of life, vote for the other man, have more or less money, and pray to a different god or not at all. In most circumstances you stay out of each other’s lives, you do no harm, and you are there when four hands are needed when there are only two.

Like when your tractor breaks down and the fellow who lives behind you sees you struggling to start it walks over and says let me look at that. Or when some pipe in your basement cracks and it’s nine o’clock on Friday night.  The woman down the street from whom you buy your eggs calls you up to tell you that she just bought some new hens, hears of you dilemma and then starts calling her friends who might be able to help. A great guy appears at your door tools in hand and fixes everything and asks for nothing. Or when your husband is in hospice and the underground spring that forms a duck pond every year in your orchard during snow melt changes its course and you’ve got two feet of water in your basement.

Neighborliness comes in many forms.   Robert Frost, who lived many years in the state, wrote how he and a neighbor “beyond the hill” would meet one day every spring ‘to walk the line and set the wall between us once again.”

Stone Walls at my old New Hampshire home


Like Frost, I now have a neighbor beyond the hill.

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 neighbors.”

. . . 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


Fence erected by my neighbor next to the addition going up

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