Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Invisible Fences

Today I was reminded of Robert Frost's poem, "Mending Wall"

"...He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'...
...Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down..."

Living in a row of 12 or so houses (I always forget the # of houses though I've counted them over these 20 years), we neighbors live in close proximity. Long Island City is just 5 minutes out of midtown Manhattan, but we may as well be in some far flung suburb. I have neighbors to the right and to the left, yet life here is very quiet. I'm typing this at 10:30pm with the window to my office open to the yard(s), and all I can hear is the sporadic whoosh of a passing car, the far off whistle of the train and a windchime moving in the slight breeze. It's November...so no more crickets! Through the walls that connect our homes, I might hear a stray phone ringing, J.R. my neighbor's dog running all clickity on the wooden steps down to the basement, some music, a random raised voice, the sound of a crowd gathered for a party.

Frankly, I have only heard screaming, once. It was very alarming. I leaned out the window and called out to find out who it was. I couldn't see anyone, and no one answered me. It stopped before I would have called the police. I found out later that it was Sheila next door--a storm window had slammed shut on her fingers and she was yelling from inside that she could not open the window. Brian wasn't in the house, her dog was no help, nor was I. I couldn't make out any words, or tell where the muffled screams were coming from. I felt terrible when she told me afterwards!!!

The walls are not "thin" but the sounds of life being lived creates a gentle hum (99% of the time!)

I tacked some stockade fencing on to the chain link to warm it up a tad.

The yards are about 15 feet wide and 40 feet deep, and separated for the most part by old and rusty 4' high chain link fencing. It's more of an invisible fence than a wall that keeps in or keeps out. The ivy and morning glory vines have made it kind of a living fence, so I'm not bothered by the chain link.

Sheila and I have talked about the "someday soon" when we'll confer about a common replacement--probably wood, definitely NOT that shiny white plastic fencing. And we'd have a doorway...so we can access one another's yards, sharing the space for gatherings, either together or independently. We've both strung white bulbs around the perimeters and we turn the lights on if we know the other has guests. It feels like Napa or Tuscany...in Queens.

Sheila can reach over and snip herbs anytime!

We pass little tastes of food over the fence, and share in each other's gardens. Rosemary, sage and mint from my side... dahlias and basil  from Sheila and Brian, grilled pizza from Franny and Bobby on the other side. For my birthday one year, Sheila passed a pineapple to me. The symbol of hospitality. I whipped up some pineapple smoothies and handed two back over the fence. Loved that!

We miss Francesca terribly--our sweet neighbor who was widowed and passed away in her 80's last year. We all pitched in to sweep or shovel the snow when it was too much for her. She'd look for me when I'd get back from a business trip and say in her heavy Italian accent," I worry, I no see you! You worka too hard."

A few weeks ago, Sheila was grilling and shared some freshly made kielbasa from Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I passed over some of my killer potato salad and I think some brownies. The other day, I was the happy recipient of ratatouille--a perfect blend of zucchini, eggplant, red peppers and some winning spices.
I warmed the ratatouille up tonight and it was the perfect accompaniment to sauteed spinach and baked halibut.
"Something there is that doesn't love a wall, That wants it down." I couldn't have said it better myself!
We don't seem to need 10 foot privet hedges, "Keep Out" and "No Trespassing" signs here in our little row.

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