Mending Walls

Wall - Old abandoned mine - West Virginia forest

By Judy Berman

The wall between us. Are the barriers – emotional or physical – needed?

Robert Frost poses that philosophic question about the boundaries we set in his poem, “Mending Wall.” In it, two neighbors go thru the annual spring ritual of mending a wall between their properties.

As they work, it’s clear their relationship needs to be repaired.

One farmer questions the other’s notion that “good fences make good neighbors.”

There are no cows grazing in the fields. So, he wonders, just what are they “walling in or walling out?”

Is the wall built out of fear? Or is the barrier needed for self-preservation?

Wall - Carlisle stone wall - Massachusetts - 2007

Whether it’s an individual or a country, either reason may be used to justify a barrier’s existence.

Some favor building a blockade to keep immigrants or refugees from entering their country.

Presidential hopeful, Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas talked about building a wall between the United States and Canada. Others are urging for the same between the U.S. and Mexico.

Still others in Europe want to do the same to prevent an influx of folks fleeing their war-torn countries in search of a safe haven.

Such a wall has been erected before.

Wall - Berlin Wall - 1989

Communists began building the Berlin Wall in August 1961. The structure, nearly 100 miles long, completely cut off West Berlin from East Berlin and East Germany until it was opened on Nov. 9, 1989.

“At least 171 people were killed trying to get over, under or around the Berlin Wall.”

“From 1961 until the wall came down in 1989, more than 5.000 East Germans (including some 600 border guards) managed to cross the border by jumping out of windows adjacent to the wall, climbing over the barbed wire, flying in hot-air balloons, crawling through the sewers and driving through unfortified parts of the wall at high speeds.”  (

Demolition on the Berlin Wall began on June 13, 1990, and was completed in 1992.

Rather than throwing up walls, we need to find ways to build better relationships to ease our worries. That task might be difficult, but not impossible to overcome.

When we’re done, we might find that it’s healthier to tear down those barriers – whether it’s between neighbors in a community or those that divide us on planet Earth.


All are welcome.
All are welcome.

What are your thoughts? Do “good fences make good neighbors”? Or, what do we need to do to end the divisiveness?

Sept. 10th marks my fourth anniversary on WordPress. Thank you to all the friends I’ve met here, for your thoughtful and funny comments, and for your support. I especially want to thank my husband, Dave Berman, who has edited all my posts. Thanks, Honey. 

Photo: Wall – Old abandoned mine in Allegheny Mountains forest, West Virginia. Taken May 2, 2009 by

Photo: Wall – Carlisle stone wall, Massachusetts, taken Oct. 6, 2007 by Kristin of Somerville, Mass.

Photo: Wall – Berlin Wall – November 1989 by Yann (talk).

Photo: Walls – Breaking Down the Walls

Source for quote on the Berlin Wall:


  1. Judy, this was a thoughtful and historically illustrated post of how walls don’t bring people together. I liked the quote about building a bigger table. Fences and walls are fine in many places (keeping animals from nibbling on vegetable gardens, white picket fences with morning glory flowers trailing over in a pretty setting. . .) But the figurative walls built between people in relationshps and the border walls between countries keep people “out” are just not the way I feel the world should be. I see the bumper sticker with its simple word and wish it were true: Coexist.

  2. There are the real walls people erect to maintain their differences and then there are the psychological walls that do the same thing. Your post is thought provoking as always Judy. I wish there were no walls to keep people apart.

  3. “Rather than throwing up walls, we need to find ways to build better relationships to ease our worries.”—Hear hear. Think of what tolerance, cooperation, and compromise could get us.

    Congrats on the four years. Thanks quite a milestone!

  4. While I don’t think walls will stem illegal immigration, in my more immediate surroundings I long for bigger taller, soundproof walls.

    We tend to live quiet lives; no kids, no barking pets, no loud parties, nothing that crosses over into out neighbor’s yards. That is not the case with our neighbors. They all have dogs and more than half have kids, and more than half have gatherings that tend to go late at night and generate noises that carry, a few like to build small fires in the evening when they are out (nothing like having your house smell of burn wood for the next twelve hours or so).

    There is no “relationship” that can be built when that relationship is all one-sided. How do you teach adults consideration for others, respect for others? Not just where I live now, but other places I’ve lived, even asking nicely gets you “It’s a free country” or the argument that it’s only once in a while and it’s part of life.

    That can be expanded a bit to include countries. What relationship can we build with Mexico (who, by the way, has very strict immigration laws and do allow immigrants from their southern border) when they are rife with crime, corruption, and lack of opportunities? Ideally, they should provide for their citizens, but they don’t (neither do we, but it’s better here than there).

    None of these problems have easy answers, and the idea of building better relationships falls apart when one of the parties basically are jerks with no intention of playing nice.

    In a perfect world, people would be aware of how their actions affect others and adjust their behavior accordingly. We live far from a perfect world, so walls and fences it is.

    I still wistfully think of the last week here (before we move) to play at full blast recordings of all the dogs barking (I have huge speakers that would carry a good quarter mile or more). I won’t, of course, because I would probably bother people who are not jerks. But it’s fun to imagine.

    1. You’re right, disperser. There are no easy answers to resolve problems. The ideal solution is for each country to create an atmosphere where people don’t live in fear or lack even the most basic things such as food, palatable water and decent shelter. If all of us were respectful of our neighbors, whether they’re next door or in the next country, the world might be a better place.

  5. i could not agree more, judy. i’m all about the big table and passing the bread to share, family style. happy anniversary in blogworld, and here’s to many more –

  6. “Mending Walls” was one of my mother’s favorite Frost poems, Judy. She believed that good fences did indeed make for good neighbors, but she also had gates on every section of her fences so neighbors could come back and forth. Even now, with her dementia, she tries to share her meals with her caregivers and visitors, even her doctor who visits every month–she thinks he needs more food to have energy to help others–so she’s equal parts fences and open-handed sharing.

  7. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana It would seem we are destined to do it again and more lives lost!

    Rather, let’s focus today on a joyous celebration of your 4th Anniversary! Yea! Sounds better to me! Happy Anniversary Judy! Blessings!

  8. I love Frost’s poetry but have never read this particular poem , doesn’t it speak volumes . I am such a private person and shy definately shy . When I moved from Birminham in the Midlands (UK) we bought a plot of land in West Wales , we immediately put up a fence to separate us from our neighbours . We realised very soon after , they have very few have fences here or need for them , everyone is so friendly and welcoming and yet they never mentioned our fence . Next year we will plant flowering creepers …good idea yea .

    1. Some fences can look very lovely, especially with flowering vines. Where we used to live, there were two families up the street who put up a fence between their shared driveway. Now, that appears to be a relationship that needed repairing. I never found out if the fence ever came down. 😉

    1. Merril … Great minds think alike. 😉 I really think world events have us doing a Vulcan mind meld on this topic. (“This is supposed to be a telepathic link between two individuals, allowing for the exchange of thoughts, thus in essence allowing the participants to become one mind.”)

      1. Merril … I’m glad you’re up on your Vulcanology. The explainer was for those who didn’t. Many years ago, my brother tried to fool me, saying his Christmas gift to me was Vogon poetry.

        I quickly realized that he was referring to Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Adams saying: “Vogon poetry is, of course, the third worst in the universe.” It’s probably the only time I was one step ahead of my mischievous brother. A very proud moment. 😉

  9. Judy this is a beautiful piece, the walls need to stay down and people who are in crisis need help. Determining the difference can be tricky. My husband bought a piece of the Berlin wall online, I laughed and said how do you know its real? He said it didn’t matter really it was just a reminder that this sort of wall should never happen again.

  10. Congratulations on four years Judy, so many never last that long, you’re a blogging inspiration! 😀

    I agree that walls are never an answer. I will admit though, at times in my life I’ve had to distance myself from certain people who were doing me no good. I can’t imagine any other way with some people, they don’t know when they are overstepping the line into the personal space of another’s life and thoughts. At those times it does feel a lot like building a wall. And yet, building walls doesn’t come naturally to me, in most ways it’s not healthy at all.

    I always feel when governments build ‘literal’ walls, to keep out and keep in, it’s never what they say it’s about.

    I love your quote on building a bigger table, that’s good advice! 🙂

    1. Suzy … The quote on building a bigger table resonated with me, too. I have distanced myself from a couple of folks. I wish that hadn’t been necessary, but … it was healthier for me to do so.

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