I was working in Halswell today, and I went for a walk at lunchtime. I walked through some of the newer subdivisions, and after a time, I realised I had no idea where I was, though I’ve walked those same streets many times. I wasn’t worried. I wasn’t lost, I just couldn’t remember what street I was on.
Walking on, knowing I would find my location at the next street sign, I pondered why I was so lost in a place I knew reasonably well. I looked around me. It wasn’t a cookie-cutter neighbourhood, with row upon row of identical houses, but there was a sameness to every house, every yard. They were all perfect. The lawns were immaculately clipped, with not a single weed in any of them–more carpet than grass. The paths were edged as though with a ruler. The boxwood hedges were precisely cut and perfectly square–they could have been boxes, cleverly painted to look like plants.
Every house had perfect stonework, perfect paint, a smooth driveway leading to a perfectly hung garage door (operated, no doubt, by an electric opener that ran smoothly and quietly).
The houses, the yards, the streets looked like they had dropped straight from an architectural drawing. Devoid of all character, stripped of any indication real people actually lived there. They were sanitary, and soulless.
It’s no wonder I felt lost.
My home is not like that. My home is full of weeds, sprawling hedges in need of trimming, peeling paint and rotting weather boards. It’s full of paths edged by the grass creeping across their surface. Flowers that aren’t deadheaded, trees that need pruning. My home is alive and growing, taking on surprising forms, springing up in unexpected places.
And my life reflects the weedy lawns that make up my world. It is not a neatly clipped hedge, but a wild hedgerow, full of surprises. Sometimes good surprises like ripe blackberries, sometimes bad surprises like thistles. But it’s alive and exciting.
I think about the people who inhabit those sterile houses on sterile streets. Are their lives as neat and tidy as their yards? Are they as forgettable as the houses that all eventually look the same?
The thought makes me shudder. It’s true, my messy yard and my messy life make me work. I don’t often put my feet up. Some days are a struggle, and every day is long and busy. But my messy yard, my messy life is always growing, even in the midst of drought, or in the aftermath of herbicide overspray. There, in the mess are the seeds of something new, something exciting, something tough and resilient.
I did find my way out of the soulless subdivision. It was a relief to leave it behind, and a joy to come home to my rampant weeds, to a messy life in a messy yard, full of surprises, growth and life.