Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Beyond Fences

A while back I submitted something to the Wyoming Council for the Humanities and the Wyoming Arts Council for their Between Fences anthology. (Thanks so much for the notice, KathBert! Send more.) They were looking for poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction to publish in conjunction with a Smithsonian exhibit of the same name that's traveling the west. It will eventually make a stop in Evanston and it would have been fun to be included in the volume that went with it, but last week I got a very polite rejection slip citing an overwhelming number of submissions, and to tell you the truth, I suspected from the start that what came out when I sat down to compose probably wasn't quite what they were looking for anyhow. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it, however (having found inspiration in the hobby of the sender of the notice for submissions), which is what really matters, and I thought you'd enjoy reading it here.

Our state is a diverse mosaic of geographic fabrics, a vast and varying tessellation of texture and color. Seen from above, its features lay in vivid relief, some more prominent, others subdued; wildly contrasting fabrics lay haphazardly tacked together like a pioneer daughter’s prized pieced quilt. Here a blue silk lake lies rippling, there a ruched and ragged mountain range bunches along the border of a serviceable gingham prairie, split in two by the twisted, shimmering yarn of a low river, divergent threads baring rough wool islands in between. Though this fine substantial tapestry was perfected long before our arrival, we have vainly attempted to organize and reassemble the topographical components and still adamantly strive to string them together with infinite varieties of that tenacious human stitch- be it barbed, staked, squared or zigzagged- the fence.

The fabric of our scattered urban spaces bears a plaid motif of concrete lined with twilled curb and gutter and blocks of asphalt, bluegrass and orderly milled lumber. The urban embroidery consists of picket fences, redwood planks soaring to trapezoidal, dog-eared heights, chain link laced with bright plastic strips and scrolled wrought iron in a filigree of medieval knots.

The suburbs are a looser weave, bound with these same embellished seams, here and there relieved by long, low hedges invoking nature or a fragile, lacy lattice inviting climbing vines. Seeking privacy and recognition of our ownership, we intend to divide our modest parcels, but in the end we effectively unite them with these devices instead. Green parks like appliqués dot Wyoming’s suburbs, basted into the landscape by sturdy threaded palisades of concrete or rock snatched from an adjacent riverbed

Trace the bindings to the outskirts of an urban city swath or a tidy scrap of township, and you will find the fences becoming spare and sparse, tended by rough-handed horseback tailors who apply no embellishment and demand only service and structure. Rippled corduroy hayfields and mottled dirt corrals call for only a crude darning of weathered poles and barbed wire, frayed for pricking.

On the high desert plateaus- knobby sage and greasewood echoing a coarse jute textile- snow fences march in parallels like wooden fringe between puckered buttes and folded washes. In the wooded foothills spires of timber snagged from the soft cushion of needles require ornate and complex shirring: the Rocky Mountains’ signature split-rail fence, erratic like the sinuous snip of pinking shears to prevent the pine forests from unraveling.

Our state bears no contrived design. It is instead a manifold of aggregated fragments converging in what I find to be the most appealing natural composition in the world by virtue of its remarkable diversity. Humanity’s fences- attempts to serge 97,818 square miles into an orderly patchwork counterpane- are both impertinent and impermanent. This matchless material we claim as our own will still undulate untamed over an ancient batting of molten rock uncounted millennia after our fractional seasons of quilting have ended and our seams have disintegrated into the dust.


Anonymous Larry said...

Perhaps they envisioned more dogies & whiskey than a Wyoming of filigrees & appliques... Their loss - I liked it!

May 10, 2007 at 2:24 PM  
Blogger A said...

Thanks, darlin'. And aren't you due for a Wild West fix sometime this year yourself?

May 10, 2007 at 4:33 PM  
Anonymous Larry said...

Absolutely. I am totally due for a Wild West fix, with ideally both filigrees & whiskey... I made the ridiculous choice of directing 2 shows with only 1 week in between their production schedules. But when that's over in June, I ought to be able to think about planning an excursion...!

May 11, 2007 at 3:37 PM  

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