If Fences Make Good Neighbors, What Is the Purpose of a Gate?


Jacki Kellum Garden 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


Jacki Kellum Garden

I am a professional storyteller, and at one time, I performed quite often.  But people who watch me on stage would never guess that I am actually almost reclusive. Especially in the age of delivered “everything,” if I never left my home again, I would probably be fine. Yet, when I am out among people, I give it everything that I have. When I am out among other folks, people might mistake me for a social butterfly, but I always feel a gentle tugging, urging me to get back home and into my garden again and again and again.

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Jacki Kellum Garden

May be an image of rose, outdoors and tree

Gene Boerner Rose in Jacki Kellum Garden

May be an image of rose, tree and outdoors

I grow many rose bushes, and most of those roses climb and provide even more privacy in my garden.

May be an image of rose, tree and outdoors

May be an image of outdoors

My garden is my therapy, but the therapy doesn’t work if people are around me all the time. It only works when I am alone.

May be an image of flower and nature

For that reason, I have tall fences around my gardens, and beyond those fences, I have arbors that carry my plants even higher into the sky. Unless I want people to enter my garden, I am all alone out there.

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 the purpose of a gate?

A gate is the place where we let other people in.

Garden Gate In Fall With Poke Berries by Jacki Kellum
Jacki Kellum Garden Gate – Watercolor

“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. Maud Part 1

I do agree that fences make good neighbors–sometimes. 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 you 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