My favorite bulky sweater wafts small engine exhaust fumes, and I’m delighted.
I’ve just had one of my “this is the neighborhood I live in” experiences.
I heard a snow blower up the street signaling what I’d already suspected: We’re not getting any more snow today. It’s too cold. Leaving my hair in its unsightly tie-back position (totally exposing my ears) and grabbing my double-walled mittens, I headed out. The front porch and walk I cleared with the broom. Last night’s snow looked and felt like super fine cake flour. When I turned the corner to the long south side, I discovered where all the snow from the front yard had gone.
Back up the walk to fetch my shovel. Working from east to west, the little drifts yielded easily. I tossed them on the median where they might do some good. Behind me the blower noise grew louder. I glanced over my shoulder and spotted a well-bundled neighbor working the corner across the street. I decided to race him, woman against machine, to see who’d finish their corner first.
Then, the sound of the blower grew louder. Looked up, and sure enough, comes the neighbor up behind me. He cranked the spout to spray the snow on the median, and off he set. I watched his first pass, then decided it was too cold to lean on a shovel handle grinning, so tidied up the front walk. By the time I was done, he was walking the blower back to his corner. Smiling from frozen ear to frozen ear, I waved and shouted “Thank you!” He looked mighty pleased.
I’ve not met this fellow before, but the experience is becoming familiar.
The times that neighbors have stepped out of their routines to introduce themselves or stopped to see how things were going when I’m out working in the yard are now too numerous to recall. Perhaps the sweetest, however, was Palm Sunday last year. I was smothering the front lawn under newspaper and dark humus, not an activity I thought would gain universal approval. Several folks did stop to ask what I was doing, even asking if I’d replant the sod. Few commented on my plans for a garden. In early afternoon, Bea appeared on the other side of the chain link. Ninety years old and the slight size of a school girl, she held out a blue-wrapped lollipop. “You’re working so hard,” she said. “I thought you might like one of these.”
I’ve done nothing to earn these kindnesses. I just moved in and started gardening. From the first handshake, however, I felt my heart opening like a seed. We’re a mixed up bunch: Giggling girls, skateboarding youth, strolling elders, and sign posting Republicans and Democrats. We’re threaded together by these sidewalks and touched by the weather above them. I am so touched by a sense of belonging here, that over time, I realize I’ve made a list of resolutions I hope will honor and benefit the neighbors of this garden.
1) First and foremost, there will be no privacy fence. It would neither fit nor serve.
2) To practice non-attachment, flowers in the median are there for the picking.
3) I can always stop for a chat, and will say “thanks” for every visit.
4) I will buy Girl Scout cookies.
5) The light will always be on and the bowl full for Halloween.
The lull of late morning has settled down around this intersection of residential streets. Quiet enough to hear bird chatter out back, a reminder that it’s time to fill the feeders. I look up to notice a fine sift of snow slanting from the north. Guess I was wrong, two degrees is not too cold for it after all. If enough of it falls, who knows what will happen next. With a nod to Mr. Frost: Good flurries do good neighbors make.