Home > obscurity at its best, only slightly ranty, Random Musings > Rescuing a Pony: Good Fences and Good Neighbors

Rescuing a Pony: Good Fences and Good Neighbors


Last Friday, I was in a rush. I had an appointment that was pretty early, and it was one of those mornings where I couldn’t wake up, despite my coffee intake.

Of course, that was the morning there was also a HORSE on the lawn. It wasn’t my horse. I assumed it belonged to a neighbor. But it was loose.

In my pajamas, I captured the horse. I put him in a pen. I called the appropriate neighbor. Good deed done; thanks were given. It’s no big, honestly. Because if my horse got out, I’d really want someone to see it and save it. Because horses running into traffic? BAD. Very bad.

This morning, freakishly early, I walked my dog. And guess what? I found a pony. The pony, a paint with one marbled blue eye, is a sweet little thing. It is now safely tucked away, and the same neighbor has been called.

I am beginning to feel like the Horse Whisperer. *puts on cowboy hat* (Does this come with Robert Redford?)

Fence boards break, especially this type (it’s called a slip board, because they slip together. There are no nails). It’s easy to break through, if the board has gotten old. And if the pony is tiny, it just has to break the lowest board and walk on through. Ponies are notoriously clever and stubborn.

Fences, like anything else, require upkeep. Attention. Care. I’m reminded of human nature, and the shoddy composition of personal walls. We build walls to protect ourselves, sometimes.

But what about when we put up a wall under the guise of protecting someone else? How many times have you heard any of the following:

  • This isn’t a good idea for you.
  • I’ll only hurt you.
  • It’s best for you if you stay away from me.

I’m a grown woman. Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at decision making, although I still labor over silly things: what to do on a Sunday morning, which thing to order at a restaurant, and if I REALLY should attempt to make cupcakes again (even though they are my baking archnemesis. That IS one word, right? Spellcheck is telling me lies, again).

I dislike it when people attempt to make certain decisions for me. If you’re not good to be around, that’s fine, but I can make that choice myself. If I end a relationship, friendship or otherwise, it is always an informed decision – carefully weighed to determine whether or not the Crap outweighs the Good. Because everyone drags with them a share of Crap. Call it baggage. Call it a past. Whatever. It’s still a horse of a very easily determined color.

A lot of times, when we put up that particular fence (stay away from me – I’ll hurt you), it’s because we are scared. Not just a little bit scared, but completely terrified. Because to stay means being vulnerable, taking a risk, and maybe getting a little bit trounced on.

So, a fence goes up. Sometimes, it is in the form of physical distance. Most of the time, it’s the emotional kind. Text messages go unreturned. Normal phone calls start to disappear. It is usually a slow process. Nicknames dissolve into nothingness. Mind the gap, then; it grows larger.

People don’t usually vanish all of a sudden. Some do, yes. It’s like ripping off a Band-Aid that has superglue for an adhesive. Like a horse or a pony, people get spooked. Even if it was their choice to wander out into the world, to break that fence, to try – they panic, eventually.

Because the world is a frightening place, sometimes. It’s easy to wander out into traffic. It’s easy to get broken or wounded. It’s easy to bleed, metaphorically or otherwise.

But it always comes down to a choice: stay fenced in or give the scary world a gander. Venture out into the strange and unexpected.

Hell, if a pony can do it, what’s stopping you? Fear.

I can’t help but think of Robert Frost’s poem, “Mending Wall.” In it, he writes beautifully about how the act of building a fence is a communal thing – “Good fences make good neighbors.” Repairing that boundary becomes a shared activity. And, to be honest, I’ve always thought that poem (though pretty) is bullshit.

Good fences don’t make good neighbors. Keeping people out might keep you safer, technically speaking. Your reasons might be pristine and solid. But consider what you’re missing, by clutching that idea of “safety.” Consider what you are doing by doing nothing. Remember that is your choice. It is simply hubris to make that decision for someone else. Responsibility is key.

I don’t always possess that mechanism, the one that builds fences. That one designed to keep others out. Sometimes, I’m like that pony – I knock down boards and run around, because I can. There’s a middle ground somewhere, but I haven’t found it yet.

I suppose I’d rather play in traffic than feel trapped. Where in the spectrum do you fall?

  1. August 9, 2011 at 11:04 am

    I feel like I took down all my personal fences a few years ago and am busy putting them back up. After a while, if you are the only one returning horses, it gets quite tiring and depressing.
    As for advice…I just feel like advice is a good thing. I usually will take more rather than less. Perhaps my feeling that good advice is scarce makes me a little too willing to share my own–or assess my own advice as good, haha.

  2. August 9, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    Earlier today, I made a tongue in cheek confession for the good of my soul and waistline (you know – the one about disappointing pastries). Incidentally, this blog post called to mind the Prayer of Confession from the worship service I attended this past Sunday. I tend to avoid the age old topics of politics and religion. So please know that I am sharing this, not to push religion/faith/spirituality on anyone, but because I believe it falls in line with points you made in your post.

    The prayer was “. . . we often allow our fears to overwhelm us; fear of others, fears of our own inadequacies, fears of the unknown. When that happens we are cautious with our compassion, guarded in our generosity, and limited in our awareness of your presence. Forgive us when we feed our fears at the expense of nurturing our faith.”

    I think one could replace the second and third sentences with: When that happens we are cautious with our compassion, guarded in our generosity and limited in our awareness of grace in ourselves and in others. Therefore, we often feed our fears at the expense of nurturing our hope and belief in goodness – in the trustworthiness of others.

    This resonated with me because, recently, I have been questioning whether or not I should remain where I am on the spectrum. Over the last year or two, I have been a wall builder. I have chosen to err on the side of caution, play it safe, and avoid drama. As a result, several aspects of my life have been less complicated. But, I find that I have been more guarded with my generosity and that isn’t a good feeling. Too, as a mom, I feel it is very important to lead by example. So, moving forward, I plan to take the time to consider whether building another wall is the right thing or just the easy thing. Often, the right thing to do is also the hardest.

    Okay, this is the second time I’ve posted deep thoughts in your comment section. Perhaps I’ll work on keeping it light and tongue in cheek next time. : )

    • Ali
      August 11, 2011 at 7:38 pm

      Blake, don’t apologize! I really enjoy your thoughtful responses. I like that quote, and I’m glad that you shared it. Also, I totally agree: the right this is often the hardest thing. Lovely comment — I’m glad that you took the time to read!! 🙂

      • Blake L.
        August 12, 2011 at 9:29 am

        Thanks so much, Ali! 🙂

  3. Jessica
    August 11, 2011 at 9:27 am

    I wrote a blog maaaany many months ago detailing all the reasons why I hate the “I’m no good for you” bullshit. Because you’re right – I am a grown ass woman and I am capable of deciding what is or isn’t good for me, AND, if you genuinely believed what you were saying, you wouldn’t be standing there saying it, as if issuing a warning, as if it’s my responsibility to be the one to step away from the situation. If you’re putting up that wall, whatever your reason may be, at least have the balls to stand by it.

    Anyway… it reminds me of something a friend of mine was saying… she’d rather have the highs and lows than nothing at all. I don’t like being kept behind some firm emotional fence or wall. It may mean that I’ll get hurt, but it usually means that I’ll get to be happy too. Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad, and that’s all there is to it.

    • Ali
      August 11, 2011 at 7:34 pm

      Completely agree! Give me the highs and lows, just don’t take away my choice. Thanks for reading and commenting, Jessica!!

  4. August 16, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    Don’t laugh, but when I read this, I totally thought of the True Blood episode that aired a couple weeks ago when Tara breaks up with what’s-her-face. She pulled the whole “I’m no good for you” bs, which, for the record, I will never buy into. I’m a big girl, I can take care of myself, thank you very much. 🙂

    • Ali
      August 18, 2011 at 8:44 am

      Not laughing at all! All roads lead to True Blood. Er, something. *grin* And yeah, Tara is not my favorite character, but that didn’t help my opinion of her. *shakes head*

  5. August 20, 2011 at 11:16 am

    I had a close friend do that to me. Push me away for a while to the point where all of a sudden, all we could talk about was the weather, Then came the point where we realized we had just spent 20 minutes and only talked about the weather – and all hell broke loose on that walk/talk. Tried to give me those lines — Trust me, I’ll just hurt you; stay away from me; etc; etc; ad nauseum. But I can be…persistent. We’re still friends.

    Personally, I don’t do fences very well. I tell too many people too many things. I actually probably NEED more fences, but most of the time I just don’t care and embrace, as you say, knocking boards down and running around.

    • Ali
      August 21, 2011 at 8:12 am

      Good for you, for standing your ground! That is often harder to do with friends, than it is with others. In short, YAY for persistence!! *grin* Thanks for reading and commenting, Jenna!!!!

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