If Fences Make Good Neighbors, What Are the Purposes of Gates?


“When I walk through that gate…that’s my escape.” – Maria Sharapova

Have you ever considered the true nature of a fence? We often think of a fence as something to keep a creature inside an area–i.e. fencing cattle or a dog or chickens inside. I actually think that the more important purpose of a fence is that of serving as a screen–to keep others out–to create boundaries, to provide spaces for privacy, to establish sanctuaries. With that in mind, what is a gate?


I am an avid gardener, and the top photograph is the gate that leads into my garden. The photo immediately above is on the other side of that gate.

“When the hornet hangs in the holly hock, And the brown bee drones i’ the rose, And the west is a red-streaked four-o’clock, And summer is near its close It’s Oh, for the gate, and the locust lane; And dusk, and dew, and home again!” – Madison Cawein

I am a professional storyteller. I perform at least twice a week and people who watch me on stage would never guess that I am actually almost reclusive. If I never left my home again, I would probably be fine. When I am out among people, I give it everything that I have, and my garden is the place that is necessary for me to go to recharge.


The above photo was taken in August of 2015. From late March until late October, I have a continuous stream of blooms in my yard, and many of them center around my waterfall. Listening to trickling and running water is part of my rehabilitation from the world.


But if I even see my neighbors and their houses, when I am outside, the therapy does not work. This past summer, I built arbors all around my garden. Here and there, they jut in and out, much like a maze. Eventually, I hope to have my entire yard surrounded by climbing roses or grape vines.


The gate at the top of the post is covered by my grape vines. I plant the grapes in places that thorns will not work–in places like where I plant my vegetables.

“Come into the garden, Maud, For the black bat, night, has flown, Come into the garden, Maud, I am here at the gate alone; Maud And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad, And the musk of the rose is blown. For a breeze of morning moves, And the planet of Love is on high, Beginning to faint in the light that she loves On a bed of daffodil sky.” – Tennyson

Rose, The Wild, Flower, Powder

Roses are essential for me. I like the old garden roses or the antique roses. I like the way that they are simple and unpretentious, and I like them because their scent has not been hybridized out of them. I rarely plant a rose that does not volunteer a generous amount of old, garden rosy aroma. In that respect, I guess that my garden is aroma therapy, too.

I also like the bulbous, English roses. The above rose is David Austin’s Heritage. I like that name. My garden is much about my heritage. My grandmother was also an avid gardener, and when I walk through my garden gate, I walk back into her garden, too.

Bottom line: I am not anti-social. When I am out among people, I generally enjoy them, but when I am truly at home, I love my garden, which has been designed as a screen from the demands of being social.

I do agree that fences make good neighbors. When we are behind our fences–screened away from society–we are shielded from people–from playing the game. But I also like gates. I like the fact that a gate allows us to leave our cloisters, and it allows our chosen friends to come inside.

If you are a dreamer, come in,
If your are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in! – Shel Silverstein

©Jacki Kellum March 6, 2016



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