I’m not much of a lawn guy. When we bought our first and only house on Ludlow Avenue, I’d never been properly socialized as a homeowner. We didn’t have a lawnmower, so I bought one of those weed whackers that you swing like a golf club. It didn’t work well until the grass was long and I didn’t like to use it anyway, so we usually had foot-high grass in our yard. It was the 70’s and I judged Clifton to be a laid-back hippy sort of place, so I didn’t give it much thought. After a year or so Katja stopped by the neighborhood town council office, and, once the woman in charge learned where Katja lived, she politely told her that they’d gotten more complaints about our yard than all of the other properties in Clifton combined. The next day Katja dragged me over to Sears and we picked out a power lawnmower. The first time I used it, an elderly lady walked up and said, “I’m so glad you moved in. Those other people who lived here were horrible.” I just nodded.
Years later the gas lawnmower quit working, so Katja contracted with a local lawn service. I thought it was a waste of money since I was perfectly capable of taking care of the lawn myself, but Katja wanted a more responsible party. Later she hired a gardener named Jean Anne to do some minor landscaping Then, more recently, Katja started talking with her about a larger project. Jean Anne had turned the front yard of the dentist’s office next door into a terraced garden. She and Katja talked about making a garden showcase out of our two adjoining properties.
Our Neighbor’s Garden
I didn’t hear about these discussions until much later. All I knew was that Jean Anne seemed to be working in our yard much more frequently. Over the course of the summer, new plants were appearing every week. I was nervous since I knew this was costing some undetermined amount of money. Then I was walking the dogs one day in August, and Jean Anne told me that she had finished her project. I looked it over with her, and I told her it looked very nice. It did. I asked about the garden’s upkeep, and she said it would be desirable to water the plants every other day and do whatever weeding was called for. Because I hadn’t been a part of this project, I wasn’t much interested. But, then again, I didn’t want Katja’s monetary investment to go to waste, so I began watering the plants. At first it seemed time-consuming and boring. But then I noticed that our plants were looking almost as good as the dentist’s next door (which Jean Anne was still caring for), and I became more interested. Now I’ve discovered that one of my favorite daily pursuits is going out to take care of the garden. I’ve developed a systematic watering ritual and an emotional connection of sorts to each little group of plants. It’s sort of similar to taking care of sheepdogs – i.e., it gives you a warm nurturing feeling. So it turns out that Jean Anne’s garden is similar to all the other big purchases that Katja has made over the years. I’m always resistant and pessimistic at the beginning, but it turns out that she’s made a good decision, and I wind up an enthusiastic participant. That Katja. Here are some photos which give you a sense of it all. It looks a lot better than foot-high grass, don’t you think?