I’ve had mixed feelings about the new 7-foot fence we built around our courtyard playground this summer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased that it’s worked so far to deter unwanted visitors from sleeping where we play, but it also makes me feel a little like we’re inside a fortress; cozy and safe, but cut off from the rest of the world. When a garbage truck, fire engine or police car drives past, for instance, we have to run out into the garden to see it, which means we miss a lot of the good stuff going on out there.
Yesterday, the kids were using buckets of water from our rain barrel and old chip brushes to “paint” the school. There were 7-8 kids engaged in the project when Josephine had the idea of using sidewalk chalk on the wet wall. If you’ve never used wet chalk, the colors are much more brilliant than those that result from dry chalk -- instead of a dusting you get a rich schemer of color. Soon our brick wall was looking like a Mondrian.
Even as I watched the kids creating their spontaneous art, I made a mental note to ask a parent to hose it off at the end of the day. In the past, our landlord has complained when we leave chalk drawings on the walls visible from the street. But then it dawned on me: this wall is no longer visible from the street thanks to our 7-foot fence. Hmm. I was soon examining the expanse of white wall that runs under the classroom windows. The 7-foot fence had transformed it, in a moment, from something to keep clean into a huge, blank canvas. Hmm. And those grim, gray window frames that match the color scheme of the rest of the church: do they still have to be gray?
As the possibilities of our 7-foot fence began to open up to me, I entertained the idea of some sort of playhouse with doors and windows. Such a thing, with its potential to be used as a place for vagrants to sleep, would have been unthinkable before now. In the age of the 7-foot fence, however, maybe we could build something like “The Village,” which I found over at The Living Classroom:
We have the perfect spot for a village. I’m starting to warm up to the 7-foot fence.