For the last two weeks, I went on vacation and traveled, and in between it rained, so when I finally had a sunny Sunday in which to do yardwork, things were a bit out of control. The summer is suddenly half over, the solstice gone, and still it tends to rain and shiver and I have only been out to fuss over my tomato plants once or twice. It’s funny how life can change, the once-thrilling expectation of summer harvest suddenly disappears in dampness and melancholy, things are never what you expect them to be.
Sabine, my neighbor-behind, came through the hedgerow to chat. She passed along sad news about the other neighbor’s cat Oreo, who was once upon a time the scourge of the neighborhood; taken by a coyote. With an eyeroll that exuded disapproval of Those Who Will Never Learn, she indicated a new cat lounging indolently on Anne’s patio, licking a fat glossy butterscotch paw. Emmett, from his safe but confined vantage point in my window, regarded it with thinly concealed bitterness.
“I’ve been remiss,” she said suddenly, and pointed to her yard, barely visible through the overgrown arbor vitae along our border. The grass was ankle deep, unmowed perhaps for weeks. She twinkled briefly. “Maybe I’m rebelling,” she mused, “although I am not sure against whom.” The deer, she explained, liked to lie in the grass back there.
After she had gone back through the hedge to her own quiet house and her own feline familiars, and Emmett sulked off into the house to yowl, I stood for awhile swishing my legs with a handful of pulled-up weeds. I realized that it is an odd grouping of women, four women living alone in bordering yards. A dark kind of feminine magic. Maybe just by where I live I am destined to belong to a strange lonely tribe. I feel as though the realtor should have warned me before I signed on the dotted line; but perhaps it is a better trade. A still house of dark magic is better than many things. Sadness about this is old and weary now and comes from a long way away and I don’t have the energy for it anymore.
I thought of my recent attempts to explain a concept; the feeling that some entire lives, and large chunks of other lives, are made up of things beautiful and shiny on the outside and empty on the inside. Like Christmas in a catalog, a painful attempt to buy a life, to triage a mortal wound. I don’t care what it looks like on the outside, I told him, I just want there to be something on the inside, something that matters.
His eyes are glacial green and lovely. They regarded me for a moment of instant, pitying understanding, and then skated away, already bored, already somewhere else.