I have found over the years you can not fence a friend

Bird Droppings October 14, 2010
I have found over the years you can not fence a friend

I am sitting in my kitchen a bit later than normal since we are out of school today writing trying to get everything done before we leave for Florida and my youngest sons wedding Saturday. There are so many thoughts going through my head as I ponder getting old and hopefully a bit wiser as I go. It is times like this you remember friends and days gone by.

“ONE THING WE LEARN, or should learn, as we grow older is to keep our friendships in repair; otherwise they deteriorate with time and weather, just like a neglected fence.” Sydney J. Harris, Keeping Friendship in repair, Strictly Personal

It has been nearly eight years since a fellow teacher offered me an article to read by Sydney J. Harris. I was smitten by his words impressed might even be a better word and went a bit farther in my reading and researching and found a website that had his old columns attached. Each is filled with common sense and wisdom, Harris’s ideas and thoughts were read in over 200 newspapers around the country during his life time.
After reading Harris’s articles I began to look as well at columnists in my own papers each day, just to see what I was missing. So a word of advice, keep your eyes open, there may be right in front of you some very good reading. As I looked at this note from SJH it reminded me of my farm days not all that long ago. Back in the day we would be pulling wire, setting fence posts and building corner braces almost on a daily basis keeping three hundred plus momma sheep, fifty cows and assorted exotics penned up.
When you drive around our section of Georgia you can see many times where fence rows had been by trees growing in lines. Most often it will be cedar, wild cherry trees and wild plum trees, which will follow a fence line, and after many years of neglect all that is left are the trees. It has been quite a few years back I went by a local saw mill to get some green pine boards, fresh cut lumber to side a barn with. Lying on the ground was a large log, it happened to be a black walnut tree trunk easily 24 inches in diameter and twenty feet long. I was curious about it since most everything in the area was pine logs and boards. The sawmill operator told me he had found this tree during a cutting and it was one of the few he has ever found of that size without fence marks. In other words no wire had ever been attached and grown into the tree which leaves imperfections in the wood. As a result it was priceless and he was going to use it for his own house and sell the rest for veneer. Most city folk have never strung wire through trees. Trying to put posts in any sort of straight line can be rough, it is so much easier to tack wire to a tree.

“One of my biggest regrets is a friendship I failed to keep in repair, some years ago, for the usual insufficient reasons – lack of time, too many other concerns, travel, and family affairs. Then, when I finally got around to it, my friend had died while I was out of town and I learned about it only later. This was a bitter experience, because he needed old friends in his last, struggling year, and I was not there to give even moral support. This remains an indelibly black mark against my character.” Sydney J. Harris

As I ponder this comparison between fence and friendship I do see similarities but I see differences as well. I as thinking of fencing and friendship and how confining fencing could be and friendship is not or should not be yet that aspect of keeping in repair is so crucial and from a farming standpoint, I can see the comparison

“No one really understands friendship, any more than we understand a romantic affinity. It is more, and different, than a meeting of minds, a conjunction of interests, a similarity of backgrounds, though it may include all these things.” Sydney J. Harris

“One of my dearest friends disagreed with me about almost everything in the world – the only thing we agreed upon was that we liked, enjoyed, and trusted each other. If you have this, you don’t need anything else; and if you don’t, nothing else matters.” Sydney J. Harris

As I sit here thinking back to days gone by and a conversation I had yesterday with a friend from way gone by. All of my life I have had few friends and yet many. For some people have friends to confide in, talk with but for me it has always been different. As I look back on years gone by and relationships and fences there have been times when trying to build a friendship was like fence building, confining, restricting and then there have been times, it was more as Harris depicts, using a fence simply as an illustration of how friendship too can fall through disrepair, even death. Several weeks back I mentioned an illustration I was using in talking about feedback between teachers and students, it is also very applicable to friendship.
For many relationships, they are parasitic, each feeding off the other. Then we move to a symbiotic relationship where each is their own, yet they need each other and finally to an osmotic relationship where the fence is now semi permeable and ideas and thoughts pass freely back and forth. We still have confines, by definition of friendship, but within the walls there are no confines and this is a difficult task. It is one that takes effort and work and is harder to maintain than any farm fence, even when nailing to trees. Today check your fences, see if they need repairing and work on your friendships. Here in Georgia a warm fall afternoon cool and crisp. a day off from teaching with our fall intersession time to catch up on reading and writing and pondering and time to mend fences so to say please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart .

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