The Neighbors are Coming


The times are a-changin'

The times are a-changin’

So I was sitting here, busily getting in some wordage for NaNoWritMo, when the floor shook, my chair bounced, and my coffee threatened to slosh over the top of the cup–then again, and again. It could only mean one thing: the beginning of the end of having no neighbors.

I went outside to double-check, and there was indeed a large backhoe whamming away at the curbs and asphalt of the parking lot that’s two lots away. When that is cleared out, they’ll probably start digging for the foundations of the four townhomes that are supposed to go up.

My little bungalow is on a corner and the rest of the street is bare, the derelict houses having been torn town and the lots acquired by the city or put up for sale. It was kind of nice in a way, since that meant the view from the garden patio for the past few years has been of a large green space with several raised planters belonging to a food bank; a small parking lot was on the other side of that. In a few months’ time, however, the view will be of a two-story brick-and-siding wall that will go up just ten feet from the property line–and from the garden.

I’m actually okay with that–it goes with the territory of living so close to the town center. My house is zoned for both residential and commercial use, which meant that a wide variety of things could be built around it, depending on what the city wanted to do. At one point in time, it used to be a tavern! At a more recent time it was the office of a psychotherapist or counselor of some sort. Personally, I think it would make a wonderful art gallery/tearoom, but it’s way too small to have a gallery and live here, too.

Like a lot of older towns, there are areas that just couldn’t be kept up as well as others, and this block was one of them. In recent years, however, there have been many big changes nearby–old, ugly buildings being torn down and really nice ones going up in their place, parking lots being renovated to handle storm water runoff ecologically, houses worth saving being moved to better locations, etc. The most significant change was the large downtown park and amphitheater built just two blocks away, and which is now doubled in size with the addition of a plaza and a pavilion with a brand-new ice skating rink.

People want to live here now, to walk just about everywhere, even to the cushy commuter bus to Chicago. All four townhome units were sold before ground broke. I knew there was a chance this area would be gentrified, but I’m still surprised that it happened so quickly. I wonder if having four new neighbors will mean getting more trick-or-treaters on this street next Halloween? That would be cool!

For me personally, the building will mean some big changes in the garden. The chain-link fence across the back is going to be taken out, and the afternoon sun will be blocked, which might negatively impact some of the flowers and other plants. I managed to dig up and transplant my Becky daisies and Midnight sage to a spot that still gets around six hours of sun. On the bright side (as it were), the garden will also be blocked from the chilly northwest winds in the spring and fall, and in the summer there won’t be any more blinding by the afternoon sun as it sets below the patio table umbrella. Those are elements that actually limited the amount of time spent out there.

Gardens, unlike novels, paintings, and the sweaters I’ve knitted, are never really finished. Plants grow and die, concrete cracks, needs change, and the environment can change just by something happening in the lot next door. I once had a neighbor who took down all the trees in his lot, resulting in no shade for mine and my hostas and ferns burned up. But part of the fun of a garden is making something lovely and enjoyable in whatever space one has. Bloom Where You’re Planted, right? 


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