Locked Out at the Boundary

Padlocked Gate

Behind this gate, a path leads up a narrow access way to a railroad bridge.  Clearly people do get in there from time to time based on the trash – or maybe they just throw it over the fence from the sidewalk. Once I saw two people up on the bridge doing a photo shoot. They probably didn’t get there through here — a block south, there’s an at-grade crossing without any gates, and anyone could easily walk along next to the tracks as long as they keep alert for trains.

It got me thinking about how some boundaries are there to block access, and some are there purely for organizational purposes — consider the property line between two neighbors, defining responsibility for upkeep on each side — and while some of the obstacles we put up are intended to keep people out, sometimes they’re only meant to slow people down or send them down another path.

And then there are the boundaries like the tracks themselves: Structures that aren’t intended to separate regions, but nonetheless just by existing define a near and a far side. Railroads, highways, even natural features like rivers and mountains split communities, climate zones, ecosystems, and nations.

But people are also good at getting past obstacles. We build bridges and tunnels. We find places to ford streams. We find mountain passes, and blast them out to make them easier to cross.

And sometimes? We just go around.

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