Boundaries

Good fences make good neighbors.” — Robert Frost

One of our neighbors is building a stone wall at the edge of his property.

Watching his progress, I’m reminded of my childhood road trips to historic New England. From the back seat of my dad’s Chevy Impala, I’d count miles and miles of curvy pastoral roads lined with rambling field stone walls.

Guarding cemeteries or defining farmland, those venerable stone borders conveyed a sense of authority — though some were barely tall enough to stop trespassers on a mission. Sections of the walls dated back to the American Revolution, when our young country was in the process of defending and defining its own boundaries.

Everyone needs boundaries. While most humans crave social connection, there are times when we all need to draw invisible lines between “us and them.” Healthy personal boundaries help protect our own space and identity. They remind others that we have a right to privacy; that we are not accessible to everyone at all times.

Women seem to have a tougher time setting limits and boundaries. Hard-wired to nurture and assist, we often answer the needs of others before our own, whether we’re caring for small children or elderly parents.

But our personal boundaries start to blur when we spend too much time meeting the needs and expectations of others. When this becomes a pattern, we must stop saying “yes” to every request for our time and attention.

Today, thanks to cell phones and the Internet, most of us are over-connected and readily available. While I consider myself a people person, I’m easily overwhelmed by the constant chatter and demands of social media — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and blogs — not to mention the never-ending stream of email to read and answer.

Sometimes, all it takes is a long, solo bike ride through the neighborhood to restore my equilibrium.  It also helps to declare “time out” from social media for a day or two.

Building a metaphorical fence around my time is the best way to restore my sanity when everything feels like “too much” to handle.  What about you? Do you find it hard to create or maintain your own boundaries? — Cindy La Ferle

Backyard exhibition

Whether it’s classical urns or pink plastic flamingos, limestone saints or impish ceramic elves, Ionic Styrofoam pedestals or poured concrete birdbaths, you are the curator of your own backyard exhibition.” — Mary Randolph Carter

I believe a garden should be more than rows of groomed beds and well-tended flowers. Just as the interior of a home reveals the personalities of its residents, a garden can reflect the quirks and passions of the people who tend it.

My favorite gardens tend to be “decorated” in the true sense of the word. For instance, I love the little thrill I get when I explore a friend’s herb garden and discover a stone cherub with a broken wing tucked behind the parsley and basil. Or a rusty flea-market bench perched in a bed of roses. We recently hired a couple pond design and installation specialists, I have always wanted my very own pond in our backyard.

I’m also a huge fan of weathered gates used to support tomato vines, and one-of-a-kind birdbaths crafted by local artists.  In other words, I’m a sucker for garden junk.

Like the things I’ve collected for my home over the years, most of my garden ornaments have sentimental meaning. Some don’t actually qualify as “junk,” as they were given to me as birthday gifts — including the granite Buddha (from my husband) resting in the Zen garden.

Of course, there’s always room for castoffs in my garden. When my friend Shirley moved to an apartment, she unloaded some of her own garden ornaments in my backyard. One of my favorites is the terracotta rabbit head that peeks out from a gnarled maple behind the patio.

I miss all my blogging friends this summer, but I hope you’re also outside soaking up some Vitamin D. (Remember, we can sit at our desks all winter and stare at the computer screen while the snow piles up.)

Meanwhile, I’ve been working long hours as an extra in several different film projects since June — quite a diversion from writing, blogging, and teaching! When I’m not working or looking in on my mother, I try to spend as much time as I can pulling weeds or admiring the blooms of my early summer handiwork. Here’s to summer! Cindy La Ferle


— All photos in this post were taken in my garden. Click each one for a larger view.