I lived in a suburb once, in church owned housing, and my neighbor could be seen crawling in the yard wearing a pith helmet while rooting up dandelions. No joke. He was a sweet man, retired from one of those mythical auto jobs that allowed people to retire with a pension after thirty years on the assembly line, and from the outside looking in I imagined that his retirement revolved around his yard. To be fair, he had a prodigious vegetable garden as well, and that doesn’t happen without a lot of work. But still, the amount of time he spent on his perfect, golf course green quality lawn, was bewildering to me.
When I moved to Vermont I imagined that we would live in the back woods somewhere in a cabin. Never happened. It turns out that Vermont has an awful lot of gray days, especially in the winter and spring, so living in a house with lots of light seemed more important than a cozy nest in the woods shrouded in the dark of shade. On top of that, being able to see water from the window was hugely cathartic for me at a time when I needed it. So imagine my surprise when, low and behold, I was surrounded by people who spent a great deal of time perfecting their…lawns! In Vermont, lawns, who knew? Looking at Bernie Sanders’ hair you would never associate it with neat, trim, lawns.
In both settings I kept the lawn cut because I figured if the neighbors were so concerned with how their lawn looked they would probably not be too happy if mine was a mess – which would have been my preference. Even so, the minimal energy and attention I invested in the yard was a source of consternation for me.
Now I live in an old brick cabin, the workshop on the former grounds of a vast tree nursery recently renovated into a modest one bedroom home. From the outside it doesn’t have much curb appeal, which is fine because you can’t see it from the curb. Instead of living on a lake surrounded by mountains, I now live in a small city in a cabin on three acres of land surrounded by trees and shrubs and out of sight of my neighbors. But between the cabin and the street, along a hundred yard overgrown brick drive, is a disheveled house with clear signs that a hoarder lives within. It is the extreme opposite of manicured lawns.
Now, instead of shaking my head at Chuck with the pith helmet, or my Vermont neighbors managing their lawns to perfection when surrounded by a gravel road and the magnificent wild beauty of mountains, I am hidden in woods within a city, and shake my head at the pathology of a neighbor whose obsession is pouring out the doors and windows of her house onto her lawn. While in Vermont, where deer could be seen grazing at a far distance on the six acres of mown grass my neighbor maintained, in the city a half dozen deer walk lazily through my yard each morning and evening and only pause to look at me if I open my door to speak with them.
Sometimes life is too strange for words.