Feng Shui For Everyday: Erect A Fence

Dear Lynn, I live in a beautiful old Victorian. Next door an instinct-damaged developer razed the old structure (it had fire damage) and built a low, substandard, hideous rental property. I can’t stand the view and I’m angry that it was ever allowed. I cannot move. Any suggestions? — Carol

Dear Carol

Yes — start erecting a living wall of beauty. Arbor vitaes, green all year, and if space permits, a flowering tree about 10-12 feet tall — tops. Consider including additional lower, even denser, shrubs. If you want something less permeable, erect a fence in keeping with the Victorian flavor of the neighborhood. And build the living wall as well. You can do similar evergreen plantings but also introduce something beautiful to grow up the fence. If you have plants at low, middle and tallish heights, their help can be more comprehensive. Introduce things that blossom at different levels and varying times throughout New England’s growing season. Spring clematis, fall clematis, morning glories, moonflowers, climbing hydrangeas, roses and sweet peas are a few examples.

Great fences make great neighbors, especially trees and shrubs whose vitality and presence will also provide an absorbent effect as they employ resources from the ground to grow. Both the property and the abutters will love you for this. Another aspect of this visual intervention is enclosure. Done well you should feel embraced by your surroundings.

Hi Lynn,
I’ve been reading your columns and find them very uplifting. Do you have any seasonal suggestions for summer? — Liz

Hi Liz,
Thank you for the compliment. I believe that one of the reasons we feel so good after spring cleaning is that spring has cleaned us too! We’re all polished up to be bright in summer’s sunshine. Summer heralds in expansion; it’s the fiery time of year when, like fire, things reach up!

Our living environment extends outside and feng shui medicine can be applied to your yard, garden, porch, parking lot or window box — whatever is yours to enjoy, inhabit or view. Lay things out in curves instead of straight lines whenever possible. Create smaller spaces within the larger view such as just one kind of flower, perhaps a miniature labyrinth, stone circle or gem collection. Consider a grouping of chairs, a birdbath or a water feature. Try to position these little areas that feel whole unto themselves separately and discreetly so they are revealed gradually as you survey the land.

Lots of concrete? Introduce pots with shrubs or flowers. Something ugly? Beautify it. Farms and larger rural properties may need outdoor attention to basic clearing and maintenance of what’s growing or what has died since last year. But if there is a large area of dense trees, you don’t have to try to tidy up the forest. If you have a yard or garden, consider setting aside a fairy habitat. Let it go wild. Perhaps create your own sanctuary in a particular area you are drawn to. It could take the expression of an outdoor altar, adorned with sacred or devotional items and statues, or a spot to honor an ancestor or departed loved one placing items that were held dear by the honoree.

Consider what you might have inside that would like to go outside. Plants and trees that have weathered winter indoors are an obvious beginning. Furniture — not just outdoor specific — is another. Plates, tiles, tools, vases, shells and more can create unexpectedly delightful displays. Allow yourself to be whimsical and fun!

Dear Lynn,
I am an artist and I’ve been looking for loft space. They all have beams, which I really like. My friend said beams are bad feng shui. What’s the problem? — Woody

Dear Woody,
There is nothing wrong with the beams. After all, they are keeping your personal sky from falling. The issue is your relationship with the beams. Considerations of scale will largely determine that. With very high ceilings, the beam’s influence lessens, depending, of course, on their size. In a room of average height, however, they matter a great deal.

The purpose of a beam is to bear weight. They are the shoulders of the room and the pressure they’re under never lets up. Beams stop energy because they have to, but the trajectory of their angled edges sends out a pointed assault, commonly called sha chi, a poison arrow, in this case aimed at what’s below — you. Angles, with their stark edges, are a pointed aggressive feature. They can have a negative impact on you over time, especially within the small confined area of a home. Another way to conceptualize this would be between buildings. A pointed exterior feature, such as a dramatic roof edge or gable aiming at the entrance of a neighboring building, functions as an arrow into its heart. I am reminded of a VFW hall I recently saw with two huge cannons pointed out towards the street — unfortunately right at the front doors of the gospel church across the way!

If you have sharp, pointed angles in your living space, think of clever, pleasing ways to soften their sharp austerity. Try stringing some lights along an edge. Lights are uplifting fire energy, which uses wood to sustain itself, thus weakening any oppressiveness from the beams. Painting the beams the same color as the rest of the ceiling will tone down their influence visually. The lighter the color, the better.

To create balance and mitigate the downward energetic heaviness from above, introduce upward energies. You can use floor lamps, tall upward growing leafy plants — anything that reaches up by its very nature. Hollow chimes hanging from the beam funnel energy upward and their metal chops the wood figuratively. Feathers are indeed light; they even suggest flight! Do your best to create a feeling of lightness. Fireplaces in these areas can do a great deal because not only are flames reaching up but, again, fire uses the essence of wooden beams for fuel. I once visited a covered outdoor restaurant in Mexico and noticed a heavily (downward-pressing) beamed area delightfully balanced with tall, bold sunflowers kissing its underbelly. Let the natural impulse of your intuitive feng shui try out new and creative ideas and you will feel the pleasing effects of more harmony and balance in your space.

Back to the loft, Woody. Don’t worry about the beams if the ceilings are really high and if the space gets a lot of light. Different and more important challenges are there because of the exaggerated distance between the floor and ceiling. You will better enjoy the expansive feeling lofts provide by paying attention to ground level. Create one or more strong, grounded and defined areas, especially if it’s one large room. Divide it into different energetic areas by using low bookcases, furniture, floor plantings, rugs and/or tapestries that help moderate an overly yang, energetic free for all, especially if the floor surface is very slick. Create groupings with these different possibilities and use lamp lighting, as opposed to overhead lighting, wherever possible.

In general, beam-itis can manifest in different ways depending on beam location. In an average size bedroom, having a beam across the lower half of your body while in bed is a pretty sure indicator of difficulty moving ahead. A beam down the middle of the bed could sever a relationship with the partner you share it with. Beams over your head may press into your sleeping self, and can create enough compression over time to manifest headaches and an ongoing pressured sensation. If you are claustrophobic it’s unlivable altogether. But you, by your very own (and also vertical) nature, are more life affirming than any structural expression could ever be. Just use this information to your advantage.

The late Lynn Taylor was a senior feng shui practitioner, teaching and consulting in the United States and Mexico for both business and home environments.