Tuesday, April 18, 2006


When we left town on Wednesday, we went to my parents' house for the first two nights of Passover. We had quality time seeing friends and family and came home about 3 on Friday afternoon. After driving the 70 miles from the Nashville airport, we went straight to the vet's office to pick up our dog guys Harry and Sally, who had to boarded there while we were away. This is all the preamble...we get home. I am ready to let the dogs off their leashes into the backyard when my husband says..wait. Look at this:

Now, I should say, we have two young bird dogs, they tear up the grass. There was a drought last year, so we didn't have great grass to begin with--and, I'm married to a biologist and I'm an "organic everything" freak so we weren't about to put turf down or chemicals into the ground. My husband spread grass seed before we left home. It didn't look like this. Then we saw the fence.

Since I've already mentioned the dogs about a billion times, you know we wouldn't have a holey fence that allowed for easy escapes. It was old, but it was definitely intact when we left home. We got closer.

Dang, we said. I think I actually had my mouth wide open. First, we tried to go talk to the neighbor in that white house. She wasn't home, and I was getting upset. It looked, we thought, like someone, a tree service? had taken down a tree in her yard by bringing heavy equipment into our yard. They tore up the grass something fierce. They cut back some of our bushes and trees. The fence was shot. Harry and Sally just wanted to run around in their yard, but we couldn't let them.

I called the police. While I waited for the police to come (backyard trespassing and fence destruction isn't an emergency, it took 45 minutes) I dawdled in the front yard with two very hyper dogs on leashes. I got to talking to two neighbors. One told me there had been a tree service in my yard (didn't I give permission?) early Friday morning. The other named the tree service. They had the chipper right up in front of the house.

The police officer was young and kind. He asked about the neighbor and explained the only one really liable was the tree service, they could be charged with criminal mischief and trespassing, but that was it. On his way to chat with the neighbor (conveniently not home) we saw a tree service truck go by. The police man had a little phone conversation with the owner of the tree service and left us his card. We were stuck with the mess. We waited and hoped the tree service guys would show up.

By 7 pm, I had Shabbat dinner on the dining room table. That's when the tree service folks came back, children and wives in tow, to fix things up. It was getting dark. The neighbor magically appeared at her back door, but we couldn't talk to her then...and she still thought everything was ok! The fence was patched, poorly, and the owner gave my husband some money to replace the ruined bird feeder and so that he could finish up fixing the fence in the morning. We tried to finish our dinner after they left, but sometimes, well, dinner tastes like dirt when you're upset.

On Saturday morning, I finally spoke to the neighbor, she's an older widow. She told me that she'd called the tree service guys on Thursday and they came on Friday. We were away so she couldn't ask permission. (WHAT??) I nearly said that. I said, gee, I work from home and I'm always there. We were away for two days. You didn't even leave a note. The tree service guys told us that they thought she'd asked our permission, they seemed pretty shocked too. She said it was an old fence and that my husband had done a bad job fixing it; the screws came through her side and were dangerous. I said I was sorry, but we hadn't wanted to trespass on her property to check that, but if we'd known, we would have fixed it. She said, "the tree service people came back, didn't they? They fixed everything anyway." I said, "Yeah, after we called the police." She looked marginally chastened then. I explained our side of things and she offered a grudging apology.

My incredibly generous husband went over to her house later with his tools, to ask her if he could fix any of the pointy bits that were left on her side. She said, "oh, no, the tree service guys fixed that. As far as I'm concerned, everything is resolved now."

In truth, everything that could be resolved quickly was...except for feeling like we were invaded. I now understand why people get so angry about trespassing. I look out on that bare dirt yard every day from my office window. It'll be a long time before it grows in. The greenery that hid our house from that neighbor's is gone now. What I can't get over, what irks me most, is that our neighbor waited until we were out of town to do this, and she didn't ask our permission. If we'd been home, we could have protected our yard from this level of destruction. It's almost like we're getting punished for going away to have a nice holiday with family. That's what it feels like, even if it wasn't anyone's intention.

It's especially bad because this is the time of year when I love to sit in my backyard, in the private sunny cool greenness, and spin and knit. Parts of the yard are still beautiful though, especially at night.

It's hard sometimes to forgive someone else their trespasses, isn't it?


Blogger jenknits said...

Well said, Joanne. I hope that by journaling this, you are able to let some of the anguish go. You have every right to be upset, but really, there is nothing left to be done. Enjoy what little bits of your wonderful, shady yard are left.

April 18, 2006 at 4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry. I couldn't think of anything else to say that didn't sound corny.

I'd be really mad and have to work at forgiving them.

April 18, 2006 at 5:05 PM  
Blogger Angela said...

Joanne, age is no indicator of an ability to behave like a grown-up. My sympathies and time really will make things better. Don't let me near your neighbour though, hmmmm?

April 18, 2006 at 5:36 PM  
Blogger vanessa said...

that stinks joanne. and i would also have a very hard time not being upset every time i looked at the dirt. sending you all good thoughts.

April 18, 2006 at 5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here everyone is being so nice and I'm thinking - leave the holes in the fence and let your dogs crap in her yard for a few days.

As for the greenery - it's spring and it wants to grow back. As much as this sucks, hopefully it won't take too long till it all fills in again.

April 18, 2006 at 7:01 PM  
Blogger Vicki said...

I certainly understand your upset feelings--that's not some little damage. To turn things around, maybe this could be an opportunity to do something new and different with the space that you never would have even thought of if this hadn't happened.

April 18, 2006 at 8:28 PM  
Blogger Melanie said...

I'm speechless. I hope that some nice green things grow quickly to soothe your eyes, and that something good comes of this nasty disruption.

April 19, 2006 at 9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you're feeling better, Joanne. I would be absolutely livid! Even if your (thoughtless) neighbor had obtained your permission for the purpose of access, the tree folks did *not* have permission to tear up your yard and fence. I would certainly report them to the BBB.

Come visit me at my blog for some foolishness which will make you laugh.

April 19, 2006 at 3:56 PM  
Blogger CatonsvilleCats said...

Waah. Buy plants, quick.

April 20, 2006 at 7:06 AM  

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