Let’s See Where This Goes

This is part 3 of a series. Follow these links for Part 1 and part 2, but for reference we’re focusing on line 12:

I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.

I had one person tell me after part 2 was posted, “I’m with you on the Mending Wall.” I’ve had more than a few people say, “I still don’t understand poetry.” Stay with me. We’re about to move on from the poetry.

Part 2 is usually where I get stuck with the Mending Wall project. It’s why I haven’t written in two weeks. I feel like the poem is saying something about something, but I’m not sure what to call either of the somethings. Is it a commentary on habit and ritual? Was Robert Frost trying to illustrate a lack a self-awareness in the neighbor that each of us needs to analyze in ourselves? I don’t believe that he included the words in the poem without reason – as filler or because the words fit the rhythm of the work.

So, when Frost writes in line 12, “I let my neighbor know”, what is he saying? Why is he saying it? Why did this neighbor – the one who can see the doldrums in the old stone savage and even has the presence to not only critique and review the way the old stone savage works but question the reason and need for the work itself – why is it that this neighbor initiates the rebuilding of the wall?

Could he just not help himself? We’ve all been there, right? “Man, I just couldn’t help myself, I had to get a frozen lemonade from Chick-fil-A.”

I try to stop and think about the response of the old stone savage neighbor when he received the call letting him know that it was time to fix the wall.

I think that the old stone savage was enjoying a cup of coffee on a nice spring morning when his neighbor broke the hymn the birds were singing and interrupted the game of tag being played by the squirrels and said, “hey, it’s time to rebuild the old stone wall between the pine trees and the apple trees. Let’s meet Saturday morning and get the job knocked out.” The old stone savage just said, “okay”.

I think he rolled his eyes. I think that he took a deep breath. I think that a part of him did remember the words of his father and he told himself, good fences make good neighbors, but I don’t know that he believed the words and I don’t know that he wanted to rebuild the wall. I think he went back in to the house and complained to his wife for a little while. “Can you believe he wants to rebuild that wall again this year?”

The wife just asks, Why didn’t you just tell him ‘no’, honey?

Let’s recall that in part 1, I kind of laid out an agreement that we all wanted to be the neighbor that was questioning everything. We wanted to be the observant neighbor, the well-reasoned neighbor. Next week we’ll get practical with it, because for us the wall may not be a wall. Maybe our wall is something else that we do over and over, and we make fun of the way other people go through the uninspired motions, but it’s really us that won’t let the wall go.

I met my English 102 professor on the second floor of Ferguson Center and went over the idea that I just presented above. She looked at me, eyes still a bit bloodshot, took a sip of her Coke and looked for a place to spit. Then she looked at me a again, still unsure if this was brilliant or just way off the mark, and said. “well, let’s see where this goes. It’s your grade, not mine.”

Thanks for stopping by. I’m running low on photographs of rock walls, so if you have a picture that you’d like to see featured here, send it along!