Fence Corners

Some people, passing, look at fence corners

And see weeds and briars in the angle of space

Where the plow seemed to miss its furrowing.

They see wild plum and sassafras growing in crowded fashion,

They see uncut grass and elderberry flaunting a lacy bloom.

They see only weeds and grass and briars,

And feel, out loud,

That elderberries have no reason to grown on a farm;

And they feel, still louder, that a farmer is shiftless

Who lets his corners run riot with weeds and grass and briars.


They do not see the nest, well hidden, with the five small eggs,

Not the swift brown wings that flash out and in,  out and in,

Until five yellow mouths open wide for food;

Nor the rabbit, grateful to sedge for is sheltering wisp,

Nor the lizard that suns on the rail in wait for a fly.

They do not know that birds watch each berry’s turning.

They do not see, nor understand, how much of the drama of life

 Is lived in fence corners. 


They did not see the ploughman’s hand, in spring,

Rough with the weather and hard from toil,

Skillfully guiding the team in a wide circle to miss the corner.

They did not observe his expectant looks while hoeing or reaping,

Nor sense the glow that welled from his heart

As the rustle of grass revealed small stirrings of life in the tangle of growth.


In the rush of their journey there is not enough time to see with their eyes

Nor feel with their hearts, the ultimate growth of the soul of a man

Who knows it is good for a farmer to share a small corner of field with his friends.

While passing, they see only weeds and grass and briars.

                                                 ~author unknown

This was given to me in 1957  by Doris Nutt, who knew the value of small things and small girls in corners.

Spending days together recently, my six year old granddaughter Skye and I walked and talked a path of awe and wonder.  Several mornings in a row found us on a trail around a small lake in our neighborhood.  The place on that route we visit most often is well loved by another granddaughter,  Maddie.  She is only three but she asks me about this place when we have telephone conversations because I took her there on one of our first walks together.  We call it the Secret Place.   Last  week, the three of us had a conference call from this location!  Skye called Maddie from my cell phone and told her she was in the Secret Place and wished she were there.  Maddie asked questions and planned for when she would be there  too.

This spot is only a small square of paving stones where two garden benches sit facing each other, but it is arbored by luxuriant evergreen wisteria and bookended by crepe myrtles .  One open side faces the walking trail.  The other side opens out to the lake.  When we enter this shaded, hidden spot and look out across the glistening ripples of water, our view is framed by feathery fronds of wisteria leaves and knarled vine.  Sometimes we see ducks land and take off on the water,   a turtle head bob up, or spots where fish make widening circles on the lake surface .  It is an enchanted spot, a place of cool quiet.   Skye told me when something is so beautiful it makes you want to whisper.  Maddie  must have felt the same, the last time we were there.  She whispered. 

One of the subjects of whispering last week was the tight clusters of blossom that had begun to show at the tips of the wisteria branches.   When we first noticed them, they looked like tiny sprays of green peppercorns.  The next day they had swelled and within the next two days, the earliest little berries were just beginning to split and show promise of the purple inside.  We whispered what they would soon look like:  clusters of fairy size royal robes hanging like grapes, soon to be joined by more and more until our Secret Place would be dripping with deep purple, draped in beauty.

Skye is not here this week.  I walked alone yesterday on the path by the lake and started to smile when our treasured spot came into sight. As I drew near, I fleetingly registered some difference in the foliage, but only after I went inside and sat down, thinking about the little girls and our pleasure in visiting this nook,  did  I frown and take in my breath.  I looked for the several budding clusters of flowers we had tracked for progress of bloom.  There were none.  Then I saw the amputated stubs of branch and vine,  the telltale withered leaf clusters on the ground.   I understood that the crew that keeps our neighborhood mowed and trimmed  had vigorously pruned  the vines.  Tears welled up as I realized the  precious  jewels in our treasure box had been chopped off and discarded. 

I know pruning is necessary.  At times branches must be sacrificed for the health of a growing thing.  My sadness is for the undeniable fact that we may not know whether something we so easily dispose of has brought joy and beauty for another.  By what do we measure the dispensable?  What nest in fence corners, what frame for someone else’s view do I damage?  In the garden of my soul, do I trim with care?