I live in a semi-rural neighborhood. I have lovely neighbors with lovely lawns. So lovely in fact, with their lush green lawn, perfectly trimmed hedges, and aromatic roses, it can be a pinch of harsh reality when I turn toward my yard, a veritable field of sand and weeds. My spirits dip. A field full. I remind myself it takes time and effort to have a lawn so lovely. Effort, which flows through my every pore, yet is rendered meaningless without the ever evasive “time.” Evasive, when you consider my schedule. What the kids haven’t devoured, and chores haven’t swamped, the garden swallows up anything left! If only I could transfer some of the energy wasted on the “busy thought” usurping my sleeping hours…
You may think it’s best I avoid looking over the fence, but with chain link, you can see right through. It’s still over there, beckoning my envy with its pristine perfection. Taunting, really, if I allow myself to succumb to my more base instincts. After all, walking from the house to the garden through a sticker-filled mess of weeds is no picnic. And the ants. Down right vicious little beasts. But the vegetables won’t wait, and ants and weeds aside, I must get to it.
One pleasant afternoon, my next door neighbor strolled over. Taking a break from my weeding, I rose to meet her at the fence for an impromtu visit. She asked about the family and how the kids were faring. She glanced over my rows of dirt, politely overlooking the fact that some weren’t perfectly straight. We discussed the veggies I’ve planted, which ones are blooming and which ones have not. And as we talk over the fence, my knees covered in dirt, she fresh and lovely, I’m reminded of why we originally chose my side of the fence to place our garden; the one we had intended to share, until life stepped in the way.
Truth of the matter, she had once tried a garden on her side of the fence. My gaze wandered to the spot, not twenty feet from where we stood. Like my yard, there was plenty of room, her side well-irrigated. Lingering in thought, I imagined it there, meticulous rows of healthy green plants, boasting plump red tomatoes and full husks of corn, their silks glistening beneath the soft dusk of light. So ample and abundant, it would have made for a quite the feast. But then it hit me –
– tried and failed. Well, not failed, exactly, as in no blossoms and no produce. But she had no sure fire success, either. Despite she and her husband’s extensive knowledge on the subject of gardening, they gave up on the idea of homegrown vegetables. Nematodes underground, bugs above it. Bad soil, whatever. The details mattered not. It simply didn’t work out as they had hoped.
So we tried it on my side. And so far so good. My outlook suddenly brightened. Sure, my veggies aren’t quite as vibrant and robust as they had been during the spring, when my neighbors and I worked side by side, but they were still here.
I breathed in the significance. They were still here… I glanced at my garden once more, but this time, my off-colored greens and spotted bean leaves took on a whole new light. While they weren’t picture perfect, they were producing. While the grass wasn’t grass, more weeds, sand and insects - it was workable. It was more than workable. It was working. And yes, it took a lot of work to get here, but it was a labor of love.
As my neighbor turned to go, she said quietly, “You know, your garden really is beautiful.”
My focus stumbled. Was that a wistful note of envy I detected in her voice? Was it possible? I ventured a peek toward my mix of sand, compost, rows of hay in varying stages of decay and thought, really? She thought it beautiful?
Tripping over my thank you, I watched her walk back to her house and thought, nah. I was imagining things. There was no envy there. Why would there be?
But taking a survey of her surroundings as she strolled up the hill, listening to the screen door as it slapped closed behind her, it dawned on me… Maybe there was. Don’t we all, from time to time, succumb to the beast called envy? A bit? Albeit a tiny bit, but a bit?
Her yard was beautiful, yes, but there was more to it than the eye could see, just as there is to everything in life. More than the rebel weed chancing a rear of its head between thick blades of St. Augustine, more than the brave grub daring to brown her lawn… Her lawn was lovely on the outside, but it has it’s hidden flaws. Flaws I wouldn’t have known, had she not shared. But this change in my perception didn’t make her yard any less beautiful. On the contrary. It made it more real. As it did mine. Granted, mine won’t make the cover of any home and garden issue, but that’s okay. It’s beautiful, in my eyes. Moreso, now that I’m not comparing it to hers.
By my hand it grows, by my care it blooms. As does my life. I can choose to stop at the surface, or I can choose to dig deeper. With lawns, gardens, or people. The effort is mine to make, the time mine to create, limited only by choice; mine. With a renewed sense of purpose, I returned to my weeding, glad for the neighbor I hold dear, glad for the opportunity to grow.