By Rick Scibelli, Jr.
I don’t know my next door neighbors. I have never asked to borrow a cup of sugar, an egg, a hand. Nor have they. I live in a mountain-y neighborhood where houses are a little far apart, although with a good wind-up, I could easily hit my neighbor’s house with a rock.
The neighbor to my left is a retired priest. I only know this because, apparently, it is common knowledge around town. “Oh, you live next door to my former priest.”
The retired priest does not acknowledge us. I have waved, I have said hello, I have tried to make eye contact as we both wheel our garbage cans out on a Wednesday morning. During these times I could toss a baseball to him underhand. We are that close. But nothing. No nod. No smile. No grunt.
The neighbor to my right has a yard that backs up to ours. The yard is full of angular and dense olive colored trees. I know somebody lives there because I can sometimes see them through the thicket. One time, UPS delivered a package to us that was meant for them. I hand-delivered it, thinking this is fantastic time to introduce myself. The woman met me in the driveway. She looked athletic – like she had just come back from a run. I explained the situation and handed her the box, feeling strangely heroic. And that was it. She gazed on me as if asking “why do you have my package to begin with?”
And I swear to you, the one other homeowner in proximity to us lives directly across the street. He is of retirement age. That I can safely say. Every morning he places his American flag at the end of his driveway. Every evening he takes it in. We, too, see each other as we pull out of our driveways, roll out our garbage cans, work in our yards. But despite numerous waves, and half-hearted “hello’s,” I have still yet to get so much as a wink in return.
Now, you would think I would start to take a good look at myself at this point. Reevaluate my deodorant. Possibly practice in the mirror softening my look. But I do these things already. I stare at myself in the mirror everyday wondering exactly who that is staring back. Granted, as has been pointed out to me, wearing ropers with cut-offs might just be enough to repel anybody … but I can’t imagine that is the only problem.
Our writer, Ivey Patton, has a much closer relationship with her neighbors. They are like family to her. But in the Turtle Lake community, Ivey didn’t know everybody. Love Thy Neighbor, Ivey thought. But in order to love them, you probably should learn their names first. But how? Ivey’s friends (and neighbors) Kristin Harmon and Celeste Greene had an idea. Throw a party. Through local food, local drinks and bicycles, they threw a community-wide traveling party. It was successful. So they did it again … and again (see page 14).
Meanwhile the now-developing Twin Buttes neighborhood outside of Durango is reinventing what a neighborhood can be. Community (food included) is essentially being built in before the houses even go up (see page 26). How can you not know your neighbor when you are sustaining yourself and your family from the same garden?
I think what I need to do is give up on waving to my neighbor. Quit forcing an empty “hi,” expecting something in return. What I think I should do is work on our garden. Spruce up our yard. Fire up the grill. Ice down some beverages. And then invite them all over. (Emphasis on ‘should,’ dear reader. I am intimately familiar with my limitations.) The priest, the retiree and the runner. Because just like many of us, they are probably starving. Not for food per se, but for the community that sharing can foster.