Sunday, October 5, 2014

Neighborhoods and Neighbors

It seems official, now: Fall is here. The leaves are not only in full color, but full flight, too. I cleaned them from the roof and gutters, decks and walkways on Friday. It sort-of rained on Friday night (the first in nearly two months, and barely a tenth-of-an-inch at that), followed by Saturday’s strong, drying wind that continues today. Until all the trees that shed in the fall are bare, leaf moving will be a regular exercise.

When we lived in the city and suburbs we didn’t have acres of woodland to care for, nor did we need power equipment to do the job. A rake or two, some burlap to drag the leaves to the compost pile or curbside, and a broom to clear the flagstone walkway and we were done. Now we limit leaf-moving to the gutters, decks and walkways. Nature does the rest: by spring they are ready to be incorporated into the soil, or simply provide moisture absorption against the dry days of summer. We aren’t too concerned with nicely kept lawns (we don’t have any) or neat beds and paths. We tend to let nature follow its own path.

There are chores you can’t ignore when you live in the city because neighbors and neighborhoods tend to exert pressure on neighbors. Here in the country, especially in the mountains, where the nearest neighbor is beyond any line of sight, how you care for your land is your business. It’s up to us, for instance, to decide how close the trees can be, or how wild the vista from our windows and decks. For us, trees are close, neighbors are not. We like it wild and unruly and somewhat chaotic around our living space, maybe because chaos reminds us of why we chose to live beyond the borders of what most people think of as civilization. We like our privacy, our peace and quiet, our sometimes limited views (very limited in the summer, more open in the winter). And we like it when we call the local power provider to report an outage and they ask if our neighbors have power. Our reply is that the nearest neighbor is a mile away. At least that is the way it used to be. Lately it has become somewhat crowded here.

We live a mile from the main road. For years the next inhabited house was at the end of the road, a mile beyond us. This year we’ve seen a one-hundred per cent increase in neighbors: one a renter of a farm about half way between us and the end of the road. The other, half way between us and the renter. A young couple bought a small holding and filled the house with their four kids and a dog, added a kitchen garden and some chickens. “Getting crowded, here,” I muttered to my mate. “Might be time to think about moving on.” Fortunately she didn’t jump to start packing up. Turns out having neighbors so close (still beyond sight or sound), isn’t so bad after all.

In fact, it’s kind of nice. We talk, we share chores and tools and equipment. That happened just last week. An old 4-wheel-drive SUV we use to drive around the place, for taking the dogs places, or to go  over the mountains when the roads are snow-covered or icy, was stuck and needed more than one person to move it. A call to my neighbor brought him and his tractor and his willingness to help, and in less time than it took him to drive the quarter-mile between us, the old machine was back where it was supposed to be. No drama, no “how will I solve this alone” monologue, just a call, an answer and a solution.

We like knowing that there is someone to call if we are in need. More than that, we like the presence of little kids who will grow up here in our valley. We like seeing the old houses become homes again. We like having someone close by we can help when they need it. We like finding ourselves, after all these years, once again in a neighborhood.

Hi, neighbor!

1 comment:

  1. Ah.... the shared preference of peace, quiet, and solitude. It has become crowded here in the holler once again, the only other full time neighbors who lived a half mile away on this dead-end road sold and moved a couple of years ago being replaced by an absentee and hardly-ever-here owner. They have been replaced by retired city folk next door (1/4 mile away).... way too crowded. Thank goodness for my daughter and son-in-law (and two grandkids) who live a few miles away who can be called upon for the rare times when I need assistance and who really understand the challenges of mountain life. -- Moi-nonymous.