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  • Writer's pictureWILLIAM HAZEL

Raising New Fences


We raised new fences and the backyard smells of fresh milled pine. We being an expression of the gathering of craftsmen and apprentices possessing the many skills needed to create attractive perimeters. I include myself and M in the we, as our partnership provided the means and manifestation of planning, parts, and labor.


The Hampton Roads humidity is never kind to lumber. I had too often mended the aged wooden panels. The time of late misspent with rotting planks rejecting request for either nail or screw. Soon I was mending the already mended, tending not to repair, but slow the despair of a structure with neither anchor nor rigidity.


Metaphor was constant companion, as I did the same in my professional life. Patching and painting, scraping, and waiting for blurred barriers between work and well-being to fall yet again. All while M also came home from her workdays wondering of the futility of faux repair.


The north side gave first to gale, the long back of the yard at least giving privacy to the folly that followed for lifting and shifting broken and splintered bits into awkward masquerade. The west fell to the next season’s blow, the comedy of rebuild now full sprawled in neighbor’s view.


The fence falling felt appropriate as this is a time of rebuilding. We took down the old trees. Evicted the many hornets from the hollows. Gave the snags to fire and sipped cold stouts in the orange heat of deadwood burning. We cleared the debris of our old jobs, planting new seeds in now unshaded earth. And then employed a brave group of able souls to remove the tattered roof. Souls comfortable and adept at scaling ladders unhurried in long days of fresh layering necessary for letting us put away the drip buckets.


It isn’t one roof, but many. It takes many layers to ensure the everyday elements we cannot control don’t slow puddle inside our lives. It takes the sheathing and the membrane and the thousand tiny overlapping pieces form fitted together with care for detail. It is the many roofs that keep us warm or cool.


And so is the fence many fences. A complicated plural that becomes the singular. Five sections along ground in as many different climates and textures. The southern exposed earth dry, the eastern flank damp in the shadow of the neighbor’s tall magnolia. The complicated corners around sheds and shared angles of property lines long undefined. And the east gate and the west gate, with their opposing swings and iron latch voices.


A teenager worked on the gates for many hours. Discovering the nuance of craft required for creating new passages. The mentor patient and guiding. It is a process of measure and test and fit and measure once more and shape and then sculpt and finally refine what first appears straight to be of the most subtle curve.


The spring invites new gardens to mind. A time for boots caked with raked worm turned soil. For knees and fingernails brown blackened with earth. A time for planting. For trusting the simple powers of being together. And so, our time of rebuilding continues.


We raised new fences and the backyard smells of fresh milled pine.


© Copyright William Hazel, 2023

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