It’s beautiful out, finally. I have all the windows open and a cool breeze is blowing in. The birds are chirping and — for a short period of time — I have to pay for neither heat nor air conditioning. It’s really wonderful, except for one thing. Neighbors.
I live in a small historic district where graceful Victorians with secret doors and turreted rooms lord over the smaller, more economical boxes of the nineteen twenties and thirties. The yards range from reasonably large to postage stamp. Many people with the latter have chosen to sacrifice their sole patch of green for a driveway. Our own house is long and narrow. The front yard barely qualifies as such and the side yards are barely ten feet each. There is no backyard, only our garage and then a small gravel driveway leading to the next house. We’re on a corner, so a long sidewalk extends down one side of our yard, passing over the brick driveway, and on to the next two houses that are so tiny and close together they look like a single structure. The quarters can be tight sometimes, and with a window on each side of every room, I generally feel like a fish in a bowl on days like these.
Charles wrote a good post yesterday on distractions, and it was as if everyone in the neighborhood came out to remind me of my omission of them in my comment on his page. Picture me here, diligently writing with a window at my back and a screen door to my face. In front of me, two kids are playing on their scooters, too busy looking at my cats in the window to mind where they’re going. Of course, one plows directly into the side of someone’s car, and the screaming of bloody murder ensues. At my back are two tiny yapping dogs. Their owners, also outside, are yelling at one another. One has a voice with a pitch that will grate down your spine like steel talons. The other is deaf. Or mostly deaf. So the yelling is not just loud, it’s supersonic. And all the while, “Bark, bark, bark. Bark, bark, bark, bark. Bark-bark-bark.” Pause. “Barkbarkbarkbarkbark.” There are three big churches one street over (two of which are pictured above), and each has it’s own electronic chime. The dogs finally stop, but it’s now six, and the bells start. I’m hit with a cacophony of “Nearer My God to Thee,” “Holy, Holy, Holy,” and some other song unidentifiable to me because of my stellar lack of participation in church. That gets the dogs going again. And I head for the nearest, biggest glass of wine.
I dream of a big modern house with a Japanese style interior courtyard, secluded gardens of gnarled trees and mossy rocks, and a water feature that edges the foundation like a mini-moat. I dream of sitting outside and not having someone see my movement through the fence and start talking to me. I dream of people not addressing me in my house just because they’re walking by and — by virtue of the ridiculously short distance between my door and the sidewalk — can see me sitting inside. Still, I know when I leave here, I’ll miss it. Maybe not the distraction level, but the nice peace that manages to settle in when the kids are at school, the neighbors are at work and the dogs are sleeping happily in the sun. Then, I can hear the birds chirping in the trees and the seagulls crying high overhead. Sometimes I can even hear the wind rushing through the massive pine tree in the side yard. Then, it’s actually pretty nice.