By Kimberly Joy Wilson (originally written in 2006)
Good fences make good neighbors. Is this really true? In California, where I’ve transplanted from, every yard is completely fenced-in creating clear boundaries. One of the first things you do upon purchasing a property is determine which fence is legally your responsibility. You repair that one fence as needed and hope your adjoining neighbors do likewise. A generous neighbor may offer to split the cost of repairing “your” fence, but you secretly hope your other two neighbors won’t expect a fiscal contribution from you. A corner lot is desirable simply because you have less fences (and neighbors) to deal with.
Then, this California native moved to Boca Raton, Florida. I thought it odd and yet intriguing that my backyard lawn flows seamlessly into my neighbor’s “private” space. Immediately my husband and I thought of putting in a dog run so our two overgrown canines could get their exercise and enjoy the outdoors. Instead of putting our money into a fence, however, we chose to update the house. Our choice reaped rewards. I am forced to walk my mutts a minimum of twice a day, which not only provides me with exercise, but I interface with my neighbors. Perhaps it is a simple “Hi, how ya doing,” as they retrieve their mail and I pick up after my pet. Simple waves, nods, or “hellos,” however, are better than a not-so-nice note regarding a barking nuisance (a past result of having territorial dogs in a fenced backyard).
The ambiguity of the no-fence situation has been a blessing, also, when it comes to foliage. Whose hedge is that anyway? When my neighbor kept on trimming so that the error was clearly in my favor, I baked him and his sons something resembling brownies. My other neighbor hangs beautiful orchids in a tree between our houses and I can appreciate them daily. Furthermore, the lack of a fence enables me to remotely monitor my children bouncing joyfully on the trampoline two doors down.
I know I’m not the perfect neighbor. I have more weeds than I care for and being fence-less, my weeds are in full view. My kids leave their bikes and scooters parked on the sidewalk and my lovable mutts bark too much. I hope to shower my neighbors with small acts of kindness resulting in “warm fuzzies” covering my rough edges. Perhaps together we can get to the heart of what it means to be neighborly without resorting to putting up walls.