The binding of between
Betweenm is not "across." Betweenm is space that connects, not space that separates. What is participated in, not merely exchanged. Betweenm is reciprocity.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"Something there is that doesn't love a wall. . . ." In these words, Robert Frost was summing up nature's irrevocable spilling over limits -- to bring together all that it creates. At this moment, you are guarding your privacy. And rightly so. But at the same time, you are uncomfortable with anything that begins to look like a barrier. Betweenm is a frontier -- not a boundary.
For a distance of 20 miles or so upstream from the ancient town of Chepstow in Monmouthshire (now renamed Gwent), South Wales, the river Wye becomes the "natural" frontier between the kingdom of England and the Principality of Wales. But from the window of my brother's border home (only three miles from Tintern Abbey, Wordsworth's Welsh stamping ground), what remains of King Offa's "dyke" may still be seen where it runs parallel to the river bank on the English side. The "dyke" was built as a boundary. This ancient wall begins on the river Dee in the north of England and extends to the river Severn in South Wales, and its construction was ordered by the Mercian king centuries ago as the first "no trespassing" sign to the ousted Welsh. But boundary no longer.
As boys, my brother and I would swim the 50 yards across this stretch of Plynlimmon water and stand dripping, with chests heaving, to look back at Wales from English soil. We needed no boundary line to remind us that this was different country. We stood like exiles in Gloucestershire while our clothes lay disconsolately in Monmouthshire. The ground beneath our bare feet, the very air we drew into our lungs, was English -- not Welsh -- but sweet and generous, nevertheless, with the fragrance of new-mown hay. . . .
In the spring evenings, the tides would bring the "elvers" (eel spawn) up the southern rivers by the thousands after their incredible journey on the Gulf Stream all the way from the Sargosso Sea. Then the farmers and laborers would hail one another across the river. Across" The difference between the Monmouthshire voice and the Gloucestershire voice was still as sharp and distinct on the late air as the history behind them, yet their laughter spelled betweenm not "across," sharing not taking.
The faces of those men and women on both sides of the Wye -- lit by the brilliance of the "hurricane" lamps they held above the water -- spoke only of their common quest as they cupped the tide skilfully with their nets of hazel wands and cheese-cloth. If there were any border between them it was solely one of distinction and not of separation.
In Britain in the 1950s, frontiers were not boundaries. In Ireland today, in the Sinai, in Berlin, and, yes, in Tehran -- betweenm is space that holds together, not space that holds apart. Betweenm is that warm receptivity to love that waits in the hearts of even the violent ones. Betweenm is in the very words that unfold our hidden unity. . . .