Beautify the Neighborhood

Last night I couldn’t sleep. This isn’t a new thing—but, as the tone of my thoughts run negative, I find sleep becomes more elusive. I tossed and turned for the better part of the night, thinking about my world, and in the middle of the night my world is my house, my yard, and the block I live on.

In the last two (or less) years 4 people have died. Not all were a surprise— there is the man two houses over who had a major disability and was bed-ridden for years. He was in his 50’s. Before that, was the wife of a neighbor two houses down. She had a heart attack in her 40’s. From what I know, she had had a congenital heart problem. Lifestyle was probably indicated as well. Then there was the man next door who had cancer though I didn’t know it until the fire truck showed up during the midst of Covid and his wife told me he had a year to live. He died soon after. Last week, there was the most shocking death of all—an an ostensibly healthy man, a father, husband, ex-military, fit. He died of a sudden heart attack leaving his wife and two teenage boys. That was unexpected. Tragic. It has forever changed the melody of our street.

Of 6 houses in a row, there have been 4 deaths.

In the middle of the night, this weighs on me as I have a husband who does not often take his health seriously, and I have a son who similarly takes his for granted.

I’ve tried to talk to them, reason with them. But, you know, sometimes people have a mind of their own. Sometimes, it is for good reason. Sometimes life plays out on this roundabout trail and we don’t really know where that path will lead. Maybe they know something I don’t. Maybe logic doesn’t reside in timelines.

In the night I try to reason with myself. I try to accept the dips and remember that Life is temporary and there is no way out. Sometimes Acceptance comes just before sleep.

I think of the guy across the street—essentially homeless, a rumored drug dealer, living with his girlfriend in his wheel-less camper in front of his parent’s home. His stuff, like entrails, strewn about the street. The tarp that leaks during heavy rain and the sole reason I know is because of the screaming that comes from the belly of the trailer, the lungs of the agoraphobic girlfriend. The way he hunches while he walks with a cane, refusing to get medical help because he fears the medical establishment at the moment. The non-stop flow of seedy-looking cars to his makeshift address and the inevitable cigarette butts on my side of the street. His sunny attitude despite the disparaging looks from neighbors and passersby.

And, he’s still living!

The gall! How can this be? Life, like a serpent, slithers through and past and inside my head during these moments. I’m awake! It’s 2:00 a.m! Why is this happening? What can I do?

Then it hits me.

I can control my side of the street. I have a little patch of garden—about 20’x10′ in the very front of my house by the street. A fence separates the section from the other part of my yard. There is a fig tree and an Arbutus tree, but there is room for more.

What if I put flowers there? I could weed it and make it look really good. I begin to envision a mass of spectacular color. The kind people stop by and linger—an immersive experience. Bees and birds would be attracted to my living contribution. In times like these, when words become meaningless, and gifts vacuous, maybe a riotous distraction can bring a moment of peace.

And then, maybe a bubble of hope can surface just long enough to take a breath.

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