When we first acquired our farm, my husband, Mufasa, whispered into my ear, “Everything the light touches is ours,” as he put his arm around my shoulder and we took in our new view. While that’s a bit of an exaggeration, I’ve grown accustomed to that view, spoiled by it, actually. Our closest neighbor is a half mile down the road, waayyy over there. I enjoy watching his cattle make their way from one end of his property to the other, lazily grazing and mooing.
All of the sudden, however, a new neighbor has appeared. I rolled up to our farmhouse several weeks ago to discover – horrors! – surveyors’ sticks. And then came an outline of a house. Then, I’ll be damned if that darn house didn’t go up quicker than a horse fart.
So, there you have it. We have neighbors. And they are a cozy quarter mile away. Shocking! It seems that the elderly woman who lives on the spread of land next to us has bequeathed a parcel of land to her son and he has decided to build a nice house on it. How dare he! So what if that land has been in their family for three generations. We’re talking about my view here!
I feel claustrophobic. I feel greedy and unsettled. What is the matter with me? The view has changed to include a lovely home. So what? Why is this rattling my cage? I suppose I’ve grown accustomed to the freedom of not having neighbors in close proximity. It’s given me the freedom of not giving a what. Dog wants to go for an unrestricted walkabout? Off he goes! Like that song? Crank up the volume and open the windows! Just took a shower and can’t find your clothes? Walk around naked. Commando living at its finest. Don’t worry ... only when we don’t have guests or our daughters with us. When your closest neighbor is a half-mile away, it doesn’t matter.
At our real home, our neighbors are literally steps away. I can hear them chatting on their patios at night or on the phone outside in the morning. They are close enough that my when my youngest was a toddler, she would surprise and delight them by occasionally barging into their living rooms uninvited to play with their toys. I am glad they are that close. My one neighbor and I let ourselves in to each other’s houses to borrow things: bikes, eggs, children.
I have a high bar for neighbors. In my home neighborhood, we raised each other’s kids, a tribe of young people roaming in and out of each other’s homes, eating, playing games, watching movies, laughing. We wiped sticky faces, bandaged knees, and lathered sunscreen on chubby legs as we put out the sprinkler in the summer. We still have an annual Fourth of July breakfast picnic every year where we watch local runners go by in a 5K Race while we stuff donuts and coffee in our faces. We have block parties and progressive dinner Christmas parties. We are close in proximity and emotionally. We’ve cocktailed together on front porches on warm summer nights, conferred with each other at the bus stop about child rearing, supported each other through illness and funerals. And now, we are going to all of our children’s weddings. I love my home neighbors.
Out in the country, I didn’t expect to have neighbors. We’ve become friends with our neighbors on the other side of the property, Johnny Cash and June Carter, who are a short four-wheeler ride through the woods. They enthusiastically welcomed us to the country and have been a godsend for learning about the area, about guns and hunting, deer, farming and even music (Johnny is a musician/businessman/farmer). We’ve laughed together and shared good times. But Johnny and June are not within eyesight. These new neighbors are sitting. Right. There.
And so, what to do? Continue glaring at their lovely new home? Pine for the days of unsullied bucolic views? See if we can smoke them out with loud music (I could always host my favorite Ink in the Clink band, Saliva, for a concert). Or maybe be a grown up and bring a plate of cookies over and introduce ourselves? I’ll make sure to put a bra on. Who knows? Maybe we’ll be borrowing ketchup from each other one day.