Taking Down the Fences

Survival brings out the practical and rational in all of us. So, fencing off the vegetable garden in summer, so wild animals couldn’t eat them, was an obvious thing to do. But now that the fences have gone, its amazing what is happening. The other night, in the quiet of a full moon at 2 am, we watched does and their fawns, nuzzle through the snow to find left over lettuces, turnip leaves, an array of herbs and discarded spinach.

We wrapped ourselves in blankets and sat spellbound, marvelling at their ingenuity and persistence. The use of their nose and hooves to rummage for fodder under the snow. The way the doe shared her feed with her young, their ears as radar constantly alert. I’m reminded of encounters in foreign countries, where I’ve taken down my own guard and allowed myself to listen and observe new cultures and people. In 1976, on a small bus in Kuala Lumpar, an old Indian Malay woman kept staring at my bare thigh. Wearing shorts, I assumed she was looking at my long white legs. When she became quite loud and concerned as she pointed, a fellow traveller spoke to her in their language, easing her concern.

He then explained to me that she’d never seen a large bruise on white skin and thought I might have some disease. Being a back packer, I was always lugging my heavy pack and hitting my legs. Everyone in the bus laughed and the old woman smiled wryly at me. When we take fences down, positive things can happen.

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