Tuesday, February 22, 2011


When people talk about "boundaries," or, worse yet, "boundary issues," it all just seems weirdly abstract, almost as though they're talking about something that was really ordinary to a lot of people, but that happened so far in the past that you can't even imagine it, like—churning butter, or having smallpox.

A hypothetical conversation about boundaries might go as follows:

"You've crossed some boundaries." They say.

"Hm?" I ask earnestly, squinting my eyes to help me recall, "Boundaries, yes I'm familiar with the concept, but the logistical reality isn't wholly evident. Could you clarify?"

“Look," they say, "Do see where the sea meets the beach sand? It's right there, that line. That’s the boundary.”

But, I think to myself, feeling slightly embarrassed, because no, I don’t see the line, What about the tide?

Recently a friend of mine took her daughter to see Niagara Falls, and they walked on the "Peace Bridge,” which spans the stretch of air over the water between the US and Canada. They approached the Canadian border, and crossed over, sans passport, only to be met by a border guard who told them that they had most certainly almost just caused an international “incident.” And, just as the sky was about to turn black in preparation for an inevitable apocalypse, my friend looked at the guard with her big, sad, confused mommy eyes, and said, “Oh we had no idea, officer! We didn’t mean to cause any trouble.” And he furrowed his brows and responded with something like, "Well, just be more careful next time, ma'am." So, just like that they were shoo-shooed away, international incident averted!

For me, incidents, international or otherwise, occur quite regularly, I’m sure. Intentional and inadvertent transgressions against arbitrary, unwritten and unspoken rules. “Is there a problem here, Mr. Officer?” Unfortunately for me, there’s not always a Canadian man there to tell me I've done something wrong.

And while I admit that I do have some boundaries of my own, they are often as unclear to me as those of others. They too change like the tides, depending on the person, the moment, the mood, the time, how I feel.

What did we do before we had our accurate maps? There were other maps, that weren’t as accurate, but just as true. The world was flat; our here was not even there. And now we laugh, Ha Ha!, saying how on earth could that have ever been true!?

I like to think of what people thought when they found out something like, America went on and on past Virginia, or the Mississippi River. Like, in their minds, did the land just bubble up and invent itself into being? Was it like a tumor, unwanted, rapidly and erratically billowing forth into the realm of the no longer deniable?

Or were there, perhaps, others like me who hadn’t much thought of things like that in the first place? You know, the ones who picked up newspapers with the headlines, “NEW WORLD DISCOVERED!” and nonchalantly flipped to the movie showtimes.

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