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When I was a child, two things kept happening a lot. One, I seemed to always be stepping on bees and getting mercilessly stung. Bees were more abundant back then and I was barefoot a great deal, I didn’t like shoes in the summer, still don’t. Second, I seemed to have a knack for finding the one, live electric fence in the whole world left on when kids are playing around it, the one that held within its boundary a few stray cows and a couple of half broke horses.
The other day I was taking a stroll through a lovely botanical garden and around one of the flower beds was situated that long, painfully familiar, barely visible string of wire with a nice little sign that read, “please pardon the electric fence, it keeps the deer from eating the flowers.”
I was slightly offended by it. Who cares if the deer eat the flowers?
Running into an electric fence feels like being hit in the stomach by a projectile basketball, forgetting to catch it first. With enough voltage to scare off a nearly one ton cow running through you all at once, and if that weren’t enough, there are the accompanying feelings of stupidity as it dawns on you that you forgot to remember that one, nearly invisible boundary you were never, ever supposed to forget.
The bee stings weren’t quite that bad, but always delivered a pulsating ache that stopped me in my tracks, eliciting a familiar shriek that beckoned the neighbor or Mom to come running , bee sting remedy in hand, at the call of that special cry. Tobacco was the best medicine, much better than the green stuff in the plastic vile, tobacco really does the trick, with a little spit thrown in to draw out the pain.
Everything in this world has a boundary. A bee, a flower, a field of stray cows and half broke horses, a little girl roaming the world barefoot. Even the wilderness has its own kind of boundary called survival and our lives have a boundary, too, called death.
My best friend told me that I didn’t have a problem with drawing boundaries, rather, I had boundary fatigue from other people trying to tear them down.
“There’s a difference?” I asked.
A beautiful, ripening tomato reaches its boundary for potential if it isn’t plucked off the vine within the window of its ripeness. A storm reaches the boundary of its territory before conditions change and it dissipates. A whale will eventually reach the boundary of what seemed an endless sea when its migration is complete.
A person with great potential for love will put a boundary around her heart reasoning that it will keep others from coming near and perhaps wounding her more deeply than before. She thinks that she will not be able to bear the pain again. She feels stupid for forgetting the one thing she was never, ever supposed to forget. Little by little, others who care for her dearly tear the boundary down.
These days, I keep a pouch of tobacco in my purse, strictly for medicinal purposes.