Costa Rican Living Fences


The film Enchanted April finishes with a powerful image

Crochety old Mrs. Fisher, who had retreated into her memories, given up on life, and walked with the aid of a walking stick, wondrously comes to life with a smile and a spring in her step. And as she leaves the Villa for the last time on the arms of the others, joyful, alive, free of herself and the demons that haunted her, she thrusts her walking stick into the ground. And that old walking stick, that crutch, beautifully engraved, yet only a dead piece of wood, takes root and begins to grow, sending up branches, leaves and life.

As I saw this, my mind immediately went to the fences in Costa Rica. They are like all others in the world in that boards are hung, or wire is strung, between posts. Yet they are like none other in the world that I have seen in that the posts are blooming. Some have actually bloomed into trees lined up along the road anchoring the fencing material, but some are just posts, like any old fence posts, except that these have shoots and leaves coming out the top.

I never tired of looking at these fences that kept the Brahmin bulls away from the cows, that kept the people out of the mahogany forests, and that kept one neighbor’s sheep apart from the another’s goats.

In some ways fences are necessary. David Steindl-Rast wrote, “our lives have many structures…because it’s only within limits that anything meaningful can happen. If all possibilities were available at all moments, if there were no limits, no boundaries, no definitions, we’d be lost” (The Music of Silence, p. 92).

But in some ways fences are not good, for they keep what could be together apart. I envision no fences in the peaceable kingdom. There together lion and lamb will lie, and child and snake will play. There together Arab and Israeli will feast, and gay and straight will share the same privileges.

In those places where we need fences to give our lives order and meaning, I suggest fences that bloom. Since they are alive, they must be tended, and they will not grow rigid but will bend in the wind and drink deeply of the rich, moist soil.

In those places where we can take down fences, by all means let us do so. However, let’s leave the blooming posts, for there we can gather in to be refreshed by the same shade and welcomed by the same cool fragrance of life.


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