When I was a little kid, growing up in sweaty Florida, my bedroom was over the garage. It looked over Mrs. Quigley's driveway and yard across the road. In typical suburban fashion we had about 6 feet between houses and zero privacy. Not like NYC no privacy where you're packed so tightly in all directions that you pretend you can see through the neighbor in front of you on the fire escape in his underpants just to be able to deal with living there.
No, this was the illusion of privacy. It's all great if you love thy neighbor but sometimes there are rotten teens selling meth out of the garage on the corner, or a foreclosure that tanks everyone's property value. But this was the 70s and my parents thought this was the American Dream realized. And it was if you didn't look too closely. My mom used to brag about how we had a Corner Lot and to me all that meant was we got traffic from both sides.
It's all in how you spin it.
Dad was a career military man, Colonel, Marines, Korea, the whole bit. Worked for big business and then transferred to FL to work in avionics and was "encouraged" to retire in his mid 60s for a reduced pension and took it. He did not roll into retirement gently. There was lots of vodka. Lots of oranges squeezed from our back yard tree and lots of pointless yard work in a teeny suburban yard. The sole purpose of our yard was to hope the tree shaded you from the sun and to look at azaleas. My folks came from Minnesota and their parents were small farmers so I suppose they wanted no part of growing their own. My mom used to laugh when I collected my chicken eggs and cleaned my coops in Georgia. "Eggs are on sale at Publix for $1.89 this week, she'd say. Want me to pick some up for you?" Love bites were common in my family. If they teased you, I guess, it meant they loved you. I'm not a fan. I like humor but sarcasm is kind of shitty. Anyway, back to Mrs. Quigley.
She was an old woman who lived alone. A Crone I guess, but at my tender age she could have been 60 and seemed ancient. She had silver hair and dowdy clothes and did grandmothery things...this was 1974 before women were pretending like they were in their 20s well into menopause. It was rare to see a midriff top, razor cut jean holes and magenta spiked hair on an Old Lady. She had a House Coat and slippers and at 6:30am most mornings she went outside and raked her driveway. "Scratched" her driveway as my dad would say. She'd scratch the sandy soil, bemoan the sprinkler that missed the "lawn" that never grew and get the leaves from the neighbor's messy live oak off her one car driveway. She was done around 8am but now I realize that was probably to remain outside to wave at the worker bees driving by to sit in rush hour traffic. After my dad retired, he spent a number of years with a flat head shovel getting sand and eroded soil off his concrete driveway, a sound I still cannot bear. In his later years, he struck up a lot of conversation with Mrs. Quigley and even started to help her plant some better trees and clean out her gutters. They were busying themselves.
Most mornings here in this tiny urban lot I'm renting I find myself "scratching" this postage stamp. I went from 7acres and too much to do outdoors to very little to do and very little motivation. This is not my house. The landlord won't bring in new soil so when it rains the shoddy fill dirt from below reveals bolts and glass chunks. There hasn't been enough rain to even grow the grass so the electric mower I got sits in the corner, tarped. Two huge elm trees flank the corners and I've put potted palms on the patio. I've got garden beds where giant squash plants explode with leaf, flower, but no squash. I've added mulch and leaves from other people's yard service and done my best to compost and augment this soil without spending a ton of money on a place I will not be staying. Most mornings there are trucks lining the road to get into the commercial buildings across the road and the hum of diesel (and smell) is not what the dog and I had in mind when we downsized. But still, I effort. I love being outside but I couldn't find a place that struck a balance of bucolic yard/less work, so I pretend this is okay.
I think it's good to challenge ourselves to adapt when things suck. You can't sit around thinking about how this isn't what you want or wondering how you're going to die. That's like walking a long sidewalk full of broken glass. Barefoot.
I know this isn't where I will stay. I remind myself that the work load of running a farm, event space, having chickens and lawns and fruit trees and eggs and hens and a holiday rental was soul crushingly labor intensive and expensive. And also 13 years was enough. Great experience, loved most of the time but done. So I sold and here we are. I am impatient and I want my New Life to start immediately, but my mature side knows...that would be highly unlikely to uproot and replant in the same year and flourish. I'm in that phase of re-potting where the plant goes into shock because it doesn't like the new soil or the sun exposure you've put it in. So I rake. I rake the nut hulls from the squirrels and move the mulch around. I water the potted plants with a bucket (no hose bib here) and I move the patio chair from one side to the other. It's calming in this water treading phase we're all in. I suppose it's like those Zen Garden sand meditation plots.
It's all in how you spin it.