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Won’t You Be My Neighbor

For those of you who have been following my blog posts, you’re aware that I moved just about a month ago into my own home in rural upstate New York.  It’s a teensy little thing on an acre I am now calling my sanctuary. Moving from an apartment to my home meant I had none of the accoutrements typical homeowners have – most notably, a lawnmower – so, I went to the trouble of hiring Rocky to give the property a once over.

He did a stellar job and, when he came to collect his fee, regaled me with stories of my neighbor’s antics, who, as he was mowing, insisted on standing on the property line, barking orders that the lawn clippings stay on my side.  Rocky’s advice to me?  “Stay clear of the neighbor.  He’s a whack job and nothing but trouble!”

I thanked Rocky.  Paid him and sent him on his way.

At the closing (I had moved in to the house prior), the previous owner, too, recounted a similar story – except, she blamed the neighbor’s “curmudgeoness” on the fact that she was young.  As a result, she made it a point, each time she mowed, to ensure ALL the grass clippings went on his property.  I thanked her for this information and filed this away.

(I hadn’t told either, but I had already met Charlie the very first day my son and I had moved in – and, although, I had found him a little odd, I just chocked it up to shyness.)

By the looks of his lawn and these two stories, he was the kind of man who took pride in a well-manicured property.  He liked straight lines.  And, it was clear he wanted clarity about property boundaries – he’d lived in his home 22 years.  I get that: clear lines, clear boundaries, no room for misunderstandings.

I had spent the last two years having my boundaries tested by my landlord.

Getting into a pissing match over grass clippings was just not worth it to me.

I was determined to have a different experience.  

When I got my mower – a truly sexy John Deere whom I’ve named Sweet Pea- I deliberately mowed so that nary one clipping made it onto his side.

I hadn’t been out there 20 minutes when Charlie came over.  (I panicked – Shit, did I miss any grass clippings?)  He acknowledged my work and shared his gratitude for my consideration.  Phew…

Fast forward to this morning….

I am out on my newly stained deck blissing out on breakfast, birds and sunshine when Charlie gets the chainsaw out.  “Fecking A”, I think, “Now, I’ll never get any peace.”  Moments later, I hear him on my property with the chainsaw.  I put on my wellies, my hat and go investigate.

He’s felled a rotted tree and would I like that he fell the unsightly dead elm?  Absolutely!  I grab my gloves and help him rope the tree. He chisels out a piece, drags the rope out into the middle of the property, assigns me the job of pulling when the time is right.  I do.  It falls gracefully onto the ground.  I feel all mighty.  He spends the next hour sawing the tree into manageable pieces while I organize them into a wood pile.

When he’s done, I offer to pay him.  He replies, “Consider it your welcome to the neighborhood gift.”

A Whack Job?  Nothing but trouble?

I am beyond grateful.

There’s something to be said for wisdom and years.  Had I bought into Rocky and the previous owner’s story on Charlie, I would have never had this experience.  I would have stayed clear, thought little of him and kept my mind shut.  When one can keep one’s beliefs open, understand what’s important to others and give respect to that, one can expect great gifts in return.  This morning they came in the form of felled trees.

My property is looking much nicer for Charlie’s gift.

And I, much happier for being here.

Happy Memorial Day.




6 Responses to “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”

  1. Juli says:

    Wow, that article you linked to from your blog made me cringe. I am glad for you that you took the high road and didn’t jump to assumptions, because we all know to assume things makes an ‘”ass” out of “u and me”‘. I think your neighbor was so helpful because he sensed the Goddess in you…the Goddess who revels in self-love, her beauty and her divinity. I salute the Goddess in you, too. Happy Summer!

    • Joëlle says:

      Juli, Right? It was a shocker that something so seemingly insignificant could end that way. The truth is that it starts with small, seemingly nothing-like thoughts such as “he is a weirdo” to separate ourselves from the divinity of one another…. A reminder to be live our namasté. xoxo Joëlle

  2. Cindy Blass says:

    Oh MY~! That is so true and couldn’t come at a better time to me! ALWAYS take the high road. As stated earlier I am embroiled in a lawsuit with my Ex and his wife. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told to lay low, go along, be June Clever! There is a reason I refer to the Houston family courts judges and lawyers as graduates of the Fred Flinstone University. Just go along! I have never met a more narrow minded and judgemental group. I play along with them yet I always listen to my inner voice AND…you are right. It is VERY difficult, to say the least. I prefer to engage my brain and actually think for myself. As apposed to being a sheep following what I’m told. Would it be easier…yes, by far! Would I enjoy my life? NO…I would feel as I wasn’t living and totally sold out.
    So glad you listened to your inner voice.

    • Joëlle says:

      Cindy, It takes courage to walk this path. I spent so many years wasting my time being inauthentic, worrying about how I was going to twist myself inside out to please others or how I was going to avoid rejection. When we can get to the place in our lives where all of that can fall away – you are left only with expansive possibility and love.

  3. This reminds me that people are different with different people. You never know how the person that gives you the “this person is a nutjob” advice, mindstate is. You never know if your advisor is the actual nutjob. LOL!

    It is good to give people respect. Come to everyone with love. I’ve been reading a book based on interviews with the Dalai Lama
    “The Art of Happiness” – He was saying that he recognized the mutual humanness, love, and compassion that is the basis of each person he meets. He recognizes them as a friend and not as a stranger or an enemy.

    I love that. It seems that you practiced this Holy perspective yourself. Wonderful! 😀

    • Joëlle says:

      SG Lauren, SO true. The lesson I learned from this is that in acknowledging his needs, I Saw Him – not others’ interpretation of who they thought him to be. It was truly a gift to be able to allow myself to be true and him to do the same, without preconception or judgment. We met in this open space where giving and receiving could flow. xoxo Joëlle

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