Friday, June 19, 2009

The Fourteenth One: Neighborhood Blight

I knew it was going to come to this.

See, our neighborhood is a little bit competitive, and there's this "Yard of the Month" thing that some of the folks are REALLY focused on. They must have this honor or die trying. It gets fierce.

Our particular street has some really nice yards. Not "Better Homes & Gardens" nice, no photographers milling about fighting for the best angle, but there are some very well-kept lawns. People spend a lot of time tending to this and that, and there's always a professional service puttering around at somebody's house.

And to be fair, there was a time when I was deeply invested in the outside appearance of my home. Of course, this was way back in the day, old school, when you took care of your yard because that's what you were supposed to do, not so you could win a prize and get your picture in the Neighborhood Association newsletter.

In fact, in the first several years after I bought the house, I was borderline obsessive. I was constantly out in the yard. If I happened to actually be IN the house, and spotted an unsavory blade of glass through a window, I was racing back out there, regardless of time of day or current clothing choice. The yard was my pristine temple.

Then, things changed. My partner moved in, and he clearly was not interested in landscaping. ("You spend more time FERTILIZING than you do with me!" Door slams, silent evening, separate sleeping arrangements.) My responsibilities at work increased over the years, slowly squeezing out any free time whatsoever. And the ultimate sin: I just stopped caring.

And it shows. Loud and clear.

There has always been one section of lawn in the northeast quadrant that stayed patchy and barren, because the massive trees stop all sunlight. I tried everything, different kinds of seeds and friendly chemicals and elaborate sacrifices. I even went the route of laying sod. Each time, there were two days of "It looks so lush and full!", then we would inevitably degrade to dried-out checkerboard squares that had to be hauled to the curb so the city could fine me for putting bulky trash out before the sacred Bulky Trash Day.

But at least it was a small patch back in the day. Now it's half the front yard, composed of dirt and a brave tendril of grass every couple of yards. The only time it ever fills in is when the leaves fall. (Oh, the leaves. Those things I now let sit there for six-months at a time. Yep, lost interest.)

When I get around to mowing this growing brown behemoth (to suck up the leaves, natch, because there's no time to rake), so much dirt fills the air that there is a cloud billowing over the house. Helicopters fill the sky, with choking and gasping reporters giving a live update to Biff back at the main news desk. I can hear dogs barking as rescue teams search for survivors. For the next week, we have Mt. St. Helens residue for miles around.

Then there are the dead trees. And we're not talking little saplings that didn't make it. I mean Redwoods that have bit the farm, towering menacingly in their decay. I should have had these things cut down and hauled away. Seriously, they could fall and crush a house. But nope, they're still there. And every time a thunderstorm rolls through (and with this being Texas, the bad weather is as regular as a subway schedule), I'm all clenched, waiting for one of them to come tumbling down. I have State Farm on speed dial.

Interesting sidenote, though. These trees have NOT come down. Yet our neighborhood has been hit hard with storms, many times. And every time, all the other neighbors are out in their yards with chainsaws, hacking up all the healthy trees that didn't make it in their own yards. And they manage to glance my way as I perform clean-up in Deadwood Forest, picking up the two miniscule branches that fell, and then slinking back into the house. I feel guilty. And I can feel their hatred, thick as humidity in July.

Okay, spinning the wheel again. We also have clay pots all over the damn yard. I went through a terra cotta phase back when I cared, literally buying hundreds of these things and cramming them full of plant life. All shapes and sizes, artfully arranged in little groupings. It actually looked really good, almost professional, if I may say. But at the height of my clay pot mania, it took three hours to water all of them in one session.

Three HOURS.

So that got old fast, although I did persevere for several summers, slowly slimming the herd as plants didn't come back after the winter. We're now down to about 12 pots with the heartiest survivors. I haven't bought any new plants in years. And we now have two clay pot graveyards, one along the east fence and one directly behind the house. Hey, I paid good money for these things, I'm not just going to chunk em. Besides, they kind of look artsy still, all piled up randomly. It's just not GOOD art. It's Grandma art.

I could go on, but I'm drifting away from my opening for this post, wherein I knew a certain thing was eventually going to happen. And that certain thing is that the neighbors immediately to our west just got Yard of the Month. They worked hard, yard looks great, they deserve it. I'm not jealous at all that they got this award and I never did. No, not jealous at all.


Think about it. I have just described only a small portion of the obvious devastation and neglect on our property. It's bad enough that our neighbors and their friends and family have to drive by this place. Now, we have the official yard-of-the-month magnet pulling in even more traffic to our street. (Remember, it's a big deal, people read the newsletter and want to see who pulled it off this time and how they did it, scribbling notes and stealing ideas.)

So we have Exhibit A: The glorious winners and the stunning beauty of their yard. Yay! Pretty! And right next door we have Exhibit B: The land of dryness, broken pottery, and trees that can kill you. And just in case you aren't clear, there are TWO yard-of-the-month signs in front of Exhibit A proclaiming "These are the divine winners. And that crap over THERE is the devil's work."

Picture this: A lovely Sunday morning. I'm drinking coffee and gazing out the front window. (Not sure why, considering the view, maybe I'm looking at that one good tree.) I spy a family in a car, fresh from church, slowing in front of the neighbor house. There's excited chatter spilling out the windows, some picture-taking. They bask in the beauty and are refreshed, spiritually renewed for the second time that day.

Then Daddy drives on and OUR house comes into view. There are shattering screams, the children's eyes are forcibly covered, Momma grips the finely-jeweled cross around her neck, and Daddy floors it, natural instinct kicking in to protect his family. They race away, the sheer velocity of the car stirring up all the dirt in our yard, sending a mushroom cloud into the sky. I hear the helicopters start up, and the barking dogs approach.

I quietly finish my coffee. And then call my therapist. On the secure line.

1 comment:

  1. I can rake leaves. I can. I can even make a leaf man. No one saw my work that day, in the Cliff, but the leafman stood tall and proud. Then a gust of wind effed him up and I got no proof but sayin. We can start a REVOLUTION IN THE CLIFF!!! (they say ya want a revo-lu-shuuunnnn welll ya knowww) Oh sorry, saw shiny Beatles and got distracted. No seriously. If you want to Brinnngggggg Me Back to LIFFEEE, SAVEEEEE MEEE-oops something shiny and Evanescence, again, digress. I can help resurrect the 2nd coming of your yard. Just say the wurd.