Being a fledgling writer (is there a rung below that? I’ll put myself there), I appreciate well-crafted effort. Especially poetry. The economy of words, when linked artfully, can connect my heart to a complete stranger (the poet). Poetry’s a shared intimacy that sometimes feels deeper and more satisfying than actual relationships.
Important poems that I’ve read often return to me when I’m traveling. I hear them in my mind like gentle whispers. The words complement whatever I’m experiencing at the moment. They remind me that so many human emotions transcend countries and cultures. Despite real or imagined boundaries that might divide us. Why I Crave Travel
During my recent trip to northern Africa, the poem “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost popped into my head. In the poem, Frost shares a ritual he has with his neighbor, a farmer. Every Spring, after the heavy snow melts, the stone fence loses a few boulders. The farmer insists that they both walk miles of wall together, re-positioning the rocks that have fallen. The farmer tells Frost, “Good fences make good neighbors”. He’ll help with this, but Frost pushes back. He says to his neighbor, “Before I built a wall, I’d ask to know what I was walling in, or walling out, and to whom I was like to give offense.”
Global travel can feel like that sometimes. What are we walling-in? Even while traveling, some of us hold tightly to our home-culture, like a purse about to be snatched. Does it feel a little like I’m being walled-out, when I pick up on a hostile vibe coming from Passport Control? Do we really care who we might be offending with our attitudes and behaviors?
I’m aware that as a ‘foreigner’ I may not be embraced in my new country. I’ve felt this before, especially while traveling in the middle east. I get it, and I’m not offended by it. But…who built these ‘walls’? And who consistently walks them, re-positioning the boulders? I guess it doesn’t really matter. Try as I might to tread softly and respectfully, the suspicions and resentment are as solid as 3D as stone. A Traveler’s Blues
“Spring is the mischief in me”, Frost says as he gently teases his neighbor. Why’s the stone wall such a big deal? After all, the poet observes, “You have no cows.” There’s no comeback from his neighbor, except to say that his father before him built the wall, and expected his son to preserve it. And…there it is.
We can choose to not travel; to keep those barriers in place. I accept that walls give comfort and security in some ways. But, as Frost writes in the opening and closing of his poem, “Something there is, that doesn’t love a wall.” That would be me. And like Frost, I’ll keep asking: What am I walling-in, and what am I walling out?