Our neighbor, at nearly 90 years old, still works in her yard each day in spring and summer, clipping back bushes, watering plants and spraying whatever she thinks needs to be killed. If there’s a task she can’t handle she’ll call over her son-in-law, who lives a few blocks over, and bark orders at him from her front porch while keeping tabs on the rest of our block. She’s the one who turns in people when they let their grass get high. If there are weeds in the alley she’ll call the Mayor’s Action Center. She talks smack about everyone whose yard or home isn’t up to her standards. She keeps us on her toes, and that’s why I like her so.
She’s a lot of spice, but a whole lot of sugar too. She’s taught us what I know about bulbs. From her stealth weeding in our front yard, I’ve learned what times of year to cut back certain plants and grasses. In winter she calls us some evenings just to chat and to “make sure you kids are alright.” In summer she just yells over the fence to check in on us, even though most of her words are lost in the wind. If I’m out clipping our neighbor’s neglected bushes on a steamy afternoon, she’ll make me go inside to get a drink because she’s worried about how hard I might be working. She brings us flowers to plant in our yard and when I thank her she snaps, “You don’t thank people for things that just grow!”
We work hard on our yard because we love to, but there’s also that nagging bit of knowledge that if we slip, we’ll have to answer to our neighbor. In the evenings and on the weekends we relax by spending time in the yard. While we’re working, sometimes she’ll slowly cruise by in her car as we’re weeding on our hands and knees, and she’ll offer us weed killer, which we politely decline. She’ll argue that it’s cheap and she’s happy to let us use it as we explain we like weeding with our hands. She’ll drive off saying, “Well, I can think of better things to do with my time!”
But I really can’t think of anything better. When we’re working so close to the ground, I think we see things from a really great perspective. Thanks to the macro feature I’m dangerously close to overusing on my camera, you too can enjoy the view we find weeding at ground level.