Paradise (with the occasional snake)


trees-different genusesA slash of red is the only reminder that a family once lived on this strip of green. The house and the children that played tag in its backyard are long gone. The property has more value – at least to developers – than the home that once occupied it.

But its owner is will not be tempted. She’s not wealthy, but she will not sell to a developer eager to throw up another McMansion – or two. She wants to hire a builder to erect a home that blends into this old neighborhood. A house that a growing family can afford, whose children will ride scooters under the arching trees that protect them from pop-up summer showers and sweltering sun.

It’s easy to succumb to the green. Maples, hollies, pin oaks, cypress, different genuses living side-by-side in harmony. Much like the people in the neighborhood – black and white; Asia-, Europe-, Middle East- and U.S.-born (in both North and South); gay and straight; teachers, lawyers, writers, trades people and an NFL player. Even Democrats and Republicans peacefully co-exist. From modern to ‘50s ranch, modest and grand houses reflect their occupants’ personalities. A Home Owners Association would be anathema. Although social circles are outside the neighborhood, people down the street and around the block coalesce in times of need.

But invasive species flashing fistfuls of a different green sometimes slither in, upsetting the ecosystem. Some of the new inhabitants understand the balance of nature. Others don’t. With no sense of place, they relish the ‘hood’s beauty without comprehending that neighbors tolerate each others’ differences, peculiarities and sometimes irritating traits. True neighbors settle disagreements over the back fence or a glass of wine, talking about the weather and children, and only then gently circling round to the purpose of the visit. Discussions are respectful. Neighbors bring loaves of bread, not lawsuits.

The woman who owns the vacant lot cannot ensure a snake won’t insinuate its way into paradise and spread its poison. But she’s eschewing the fistfuls of green going her best to maintain the balance of the neighborhood ecosystem.

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