Our dead end street holds 14 of 72 homes in our condominium community. I know half the residents by name. One of them won’t speak to me even though we used to be friendly. I think it’s because she overhead me talking to another neighbour during which I thickly larded the conversation with the f-bomb.
Yesterday, I was busting up a patch of flowers impacted in an impenetrable layer of grass roots. It was impossible to pull out the frisky spikes poking through the mass so I was hatcheting it with my spade like I was chopping up a carcass. It felt great. With every chop into the matted mess, a puff of chlorophyll and earth musk hit me and I was getting stoned with the exploding scents. Endorphins added to the mix making me giddy with the joy of digging.
What with a dicky knee, hip bursitis, and an unstable sacroiliac joint it has been two years since I gardened. The flower beds struggled like poor, starving waifs, all limbs and joints sticking out of raggedy clothes. And because I wasn’t outside much, I didn’t notice that my neighbour wasn’t talking to me until this spring. I waved on several occasions. I attempted eye contact. I smiled pleasantly. I even said hello but I was spurned. Ripping weeds, culling day lilies, rearranging rocks, killing ants, I was having a great time in the garden when she strolled outside, put the garbage at the curb, looked straight at me and walked back inside without a word.
You know when you’re happy despite every muscle in your body hurting because you’ve woken them up with a triple alarm activity? When you’re so damn happy that you don’t even notice you’re sore? Then someone looks at you the wrong way, and the joy turns into a sharp pain in your butt and you stand there frozen because all the hurts suddenly register? I resumed hacking with extra zest. Damn the neighbours and damn the hurts.
Four doors up the street, there’s a single older woman who, over 20 years, has never said hello when I greeted her, so I stopped. Yesterday morning she smiled at me as I was watching the back of my other neighbour disappear inside her front door. I said good morning.
Three doors up is a family with two enormous dogs that my small wooly critter despises and yaps at like he’s going to tear their nostrils apart. Now they ignore me as though it is me who carries on when the dogs pass by. Apparently, I am my dog.
Back in the garden, I snip and trim the edge of the grass and lop dead twigs from the shrubs. Tending the garden is much easier than tending to relations on the street.
Meanwhile, in the cherry tree, the wildlife neighbours have invaded uninvited, hungry Visigoths plundering the fruit while I watch from the back deck, murder in my heart. My water pistol is useless against their numbers and persistence. The baby squirrels sit in the adjacent maple, cha-cha-chattering, chuk, chuk chuking, fuk, fuk, fuk-youing, ssssspittting pits to the ground where the starlings peck merrily away on the cherry bones.
Last year the wild gangs ransacked the tree in under a week. This year the little Caligulas are spreading their gorging over a longer time, torturing me with their oblivious pleasure.
I’ve managed to rescue about 4 cups of the jewels – enough to make a cheesecake. Maybe I’ll share it with my grumpy neighbours.