Archive for the 'neighbors' Category

Catcher in the Rye

September 15, 2014

Sometimes when I find myself complaining (perhaps even whining) about my familial role, I talk about feeling like Holden Caufield’s interpretation of a Catcher in the Rye — I do often feel as though I am responsible for keeping people from falling off the edge.

So it was quite a thing for me to realize, after the urgent situation this afternoon had subsided, that I had sort of literally done that for a neighbor.

She is elderly, has dementia, and had apparently wandered across the street and up onto my porch.  I became aware of this only after my son and another neighbor were trying to get her back into her house.  I had been in my backyard doing yard work.

Long story much shorter, a police officer held the senior under the arm, while I stood behind the elderly woman and provided physical support as she made her way up the steep back stairs to her house using her hands as well as her feet.  When she got to the last step and began to stand up straight, I braced myself against the house as I stood on the steps, and I could feel the weakness in her legs as they quavered, but I gave support and she got up there, in her Boston Bruins slippers, and I gave a cheer.

I had kicked off my yard-working clogs before I ascended the stairscase;  I knew I needed as much grip as possible and the best chance at keeping my balance possible.  (I wasn’t wearing any socks.)  I have always had a terrible sense of balance, and I do have ear issues, so I suspect my balance issues have a physiological component.  I am not fond of steep staircases with shallow steps like the one we had to go up.  But no one asked me if I wanted to play my role — the other neighbor made it clear she wasn’t going to do it, and my son I think was up on the back porch already, minding the backdoor and the husband, who also suffers from dementia, waiting to receive the elderly woman.

So afterwards I was sort of amazed at what we had done, and I realized I had kept the lady from falling off the stairs — not exactly the Catcher in the Rye, but close.


“And the walls came tumbling down”

May 4, 2014

It’s herbaceous walls in this case.

My back neighbor came to the front door yesterday, to let me know he wanted to trim down the hedge above the retaining wall that separates our properties, in order to stimulate bushier growth lower down on the plants.  I endorsed the idea, noting we have no dog at this time — Caesar would have taken a lower hedge as an invitation to go visiting.

While Jonas, Jordan, and I were out in the back, in part to clean up the trimmings that fell into the yard, our side neighbor hailed me and asked if he should do the same for the hedge that separates our properties.  I said sure.

It’s going to be a whole new look, at least until the plants regrow.

Bird nests and laws

July 16, 2013

I discovered two bird nests in my backyard while I was pruning.  The timing of the second discovery had to do with when some of my neighbors go on vacation and I can prune my bushes on my property without having to parry back conversation.  I wondered about whether it was okay to remove the nests.  I was pretty sure they were no longer in use.

One nest was in the grapevine, about where there was one last year.  That one ended smashed on the ground after a storm during the fall.  The other was also close to where I had seen a nest other years — in the great rambling rose bush that is intertwined, in places, with one of the hedges.

I found online the legal rules about removing bird nests.  Pigeons, sparrows, and starlings, I think it is, have little protection, but other common migratory birds do have some protection from us humans.  I also read about parasites in bird nests, and did notice some earwigs in the ones in my yard.

Anyway, this to me was just another random chapter in yardwork and suburban homeownership.

And then I got one of those emails from The New Yorker about what’s in the current issue, and I read a piece called “Operation Easter,” by Julian Rubinstein, about high crimes involving stealing bird eggs out of nests in Scotland and England.

Clearly there was no causative connection between my nest issues and this article, and it’s hard even to find a connection between them through something conscious I could have done.  One could write off the confluence as coincidence, but I think of it as a good example of synchronicity.  I suspect synchronicity is driven by some third aspect of it that we don’t see — for example, perhaps by a solar flare of energy from somewhere, washing over us and playing out in a variety of similar ways.

A footnote:  the birds may not be nesting in my yard at this point in the season, but they bathe in the two low bird baths in the yard.

Raccoon in the afternoon

April 26, 2013

I was out running an errand on foot when I see a raccoon on the sidewalk about a house-length away from me coming towards me.  He (she?) turns around and I cross the street.

I run my errand (about a block away), and on the way back a few minutes later, make a small detour and stop at the middle school nearby.  I let the secretary in the central office know about the raccoon, because it’s my understanding that a raccoon out in the middle of the day is apt to be ill, and there it is, close by to the school and on the route home many of the students walk along, especially during good weather like today’s.  The secretary thanks me and says she’ll call the animal control officer to look into the matter.

I walk back home, and as I pass where I saw the raccoon, I see a young child playing on his lawn.  So I ask, “Can I tell you something?  I just saw a raccoon nearby … ” and then he kind of interrupts and happily tells me that “We just saw it” and that it lives in “that tree” and points to a very storm-damaged tree nearby.  I still suggested that he be careful, but at least I knew that he and others at his house were aware of the raccoon.

Well, I don’t know whether I should have gone to the school or discussed it with the boy, I felt kind of officious, but I think after things like the Newtown shooting, I feel somehow we’re all supposed to go an extra mile to try to protect children and school children.  I figured I’d feel better in retrospect if I told people than if I saw it in the local paper next week that something happened.  But figuring out where that line is between what is my business and what isn’t I think has become even more difficult not just to discern but to see as others in the community see it.

From another’s point of view

September 17, 2012

Yesterday my neighbors invited me (Jordan was out with friends) to a Rosh Hashanah dinner at their house.  I hadn’t assumed they’re Jewish; I do know they’re Russian.

They were hoping I could teach them lots of traditions for such a dinner, and unfortunately I have in common with them, although for different reasons, an interruption in the transmission of these traditions.  My parents basically refused to do those things, although they always stayed home on the High Holidays.

For my dad it was about rejecting a lot of religion because of the failings of the clergy (rabbis) to guide their people and keep them safe — in other words, why didn’t the rabbis see what was coming in Europe in the 1930s?  For my mother, World War II and the Holocaust were also traumatizing, even though she grew up in the U.S. — I think a lot of American Jews of her generation reacted as she did.

I brought challah cover, kiddush cup, and Manischewitz wine with me to my neighbors’ house.  I brought a prayer book, too, but I ended up singing a blessing over the wine from memory.  (Willy and I had joined a synagogue for a few years, that’s where I learned it.)  So it was a little like the very poorly sighted leading the blind.

But it worked out fine, the dinner did, not because all the traditional details were there (some were), but because of the good food and the sharing and the fellowship.

What struck me beyond those things were two almost extraneous experiences: sitting among people primarily communicating in a language I don’t speak (Russian) and seeing my house through their kitchen window or from their front porch.

With regard to the language issue, I guess it’s a little like my neighbors’ experience coming to this country.  And I could follow some empathetically and the woman who invited me translated back and forth, too.

The perspective-on-my-house thing was kind of more disconcerting.  Made me realize that I don’t look at my house from their property in evaluating how it looks and determining what to do about it.

That’s where I think there’s a lesson: how I don’t realize completely how I come across to others.  I get feedback from time to time that I’m not seeing it, when somebody tells me I’m intimidating or short or clearly from New Jersey.  I also know I have distortions in how I see myself due to peculiar feedback I have gotten from members of my family of origin (that I’m stupid is one, that I have the same issues as my sister is another).

How to see myself from the outside more accurately?  I’m not altogether sure at this point, maybe I need to put that out there to the universe for some guidance on the subject.

Raking (other people’s) leaves

March 31, 2012

I’ve probably mentioned before that I had a neighbor here for many years who firmly believed that leaves from a tree rooted on my property were my responsibility to rake, even if they fell onto her property, and even if she chose not to trim the branches of the tree back to the property line to reduce the volume of leaves.  She was from another country, older, arthritic, and we eventually became friendly and dealt with the leaves and pruning issues without friction.

She moved away four or five years ago, but that concept of raking other people’s leaves had stayed with me.  Getting out on the porch roof yesterday to measure baluster spacing is a version of the idea.  At least there, even though I had an initially negative reaction to the thought of doing the measuring, I kind of knew what might help.  In other situations, I might also have the sense of how to meet someone more than halfway (from my perspective), or where they are, and without judging them or becoming angry or resentful, but in some situations I just don’t know what to do even if I am in theory willing to do more at my end to resolve an impasse.  Sometimes someone else clues me in on what I might do differently, like not assuming someone is blowing me off when it’s really anxiety preventing the other person from seeking clarification from me about how to do the task they’ve agreed to do for me.  With my dad I’ve learned not to ask general open-ended questions about financial matters — I get higher quality advice, I think from his improved focusing, if I can figure out enough first to be able to ask him some pretty specific questions.

But there are still times when I am willing to do more to meet the other person where they are but I don’t know what I can do that would constitute that.  I’m thinking that maybe I need to make sure I’ve cleaned up my own frustration first and have become open to doing what would help without noticing whether it’s something I originally thought I should need to do, without noticing which tree the leaf came from anymore.  Maybe when I’ve done that, it will become clearer what I can do that would move things along.

The “magic” behind the bobcat

January 22, 2012

This is a follow-up to my last post, the one about how a bobcat came and cleared the snow from the end of my driveway unbidden, and it felt to me like being visited by Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.

Last night I heard a town plow go by, and I got curious whether it had pushed more street snow into the mouth of my driveway (when they used to send out two staggered plows simultaneously, this didn’t happen, but now they plow the middle of the street first and make another pass later to clear the street to the curb).  I couldn’t see, so when I saw the light of what I guessed would be a plow service for the neighbor across the street, I took a peek, hoping it would illuminate the bottom of my driveway.

It actually seemed to be cleaning up around my driveway, and it parked in front of my house, but I realized (from watching where the driver went when he got out of the truck) it was probably the (new) plow service of my adjacent neighbors, not of my neighbors across the street.

Which leads me to my point: I suspect this new plow service was hired by the adult children of my adjacent neighbors (who also bought for them and had rehabbed their house about four years ago).  I wonder if for them it was like receiving a gift.  If I picked up some of that “energy,” as I seem to do in other contexts, then maybe that’s kind of like the scaffolding beneath my experience of the bobcat.

This explanation is not to deny the altruism of the bobcat operator, just to point out evidence for my sense of energy and energy-sharing.