Life around here often takes place in the garden... but it's not always a rose garden.
It certainly can be. Last week our neighbor N., who runs after-school art classes for the neighborhood kids, hosted a lovely open studio evening, featuring artwork from all her young pupils from the past year. (She built her studio is built out of a renovated tin shed - complete with A/C - off the side of her garden, which is open to a lovely view of the surrounding hills).
The gathering was informal, with drinks, pretzels and fruit laid out under the olive tree, crafts and sculptures arranged on the ping-pong table, and drawings hung all around. Parents strolled around admiring the work, and kids drew and colored in the studio. N.'s calm presence filled the garden, as she repositioned the artwork and offered compliments to the artists' parents. Neighbors who hadn't seen each other in a few days (amazing how often that happens) sat chatting in the grass.
What has always given me pause for thought is that beyond a few specific cases, most people here agrees to disagree, and leave it at that. It's a "I won't trample your boundaries if you don't trample mine" sort of set-up.
Of course, not all is rosy in our village. Over-all, there are feelings of closeness and community. Yet there are always those stuck in some form of social exile, whether external or self-imposed. Over time, disagreements crop up. People can feel mistreated, resentful, and angry, and get stuck with a grudge for eons. Others find themselves in the position of go-between. Still others stay completely out of the loop.
The most common form of dilemma usually involves kids. What do you do when your neighbors' kids are bullying on one of yours? How do you feel when your son's best friend likes to watch violent movies you'd rather not expose him to? What's your reaction when your friends' daughter when she purposely pours water all over your newly cleaned rabbit cage, just to see your reaction? (Yes, that one actually happened).
Beyond that, the most common areas of agree-to-disagreement: junk piling up in the driveway, neighborhood dues collections, and whether certain kinds of [women's] outfits are suitable for beit knesset. Other issues involve the personal, or maybe, personality. Still others are, well... I don't want to know. In a small community, you learn that when in doubt, keeping your mouth shut might be the best option.
Like all others, our community has had its share of sorrows. Also of celebrations. And all of them have felt like community sorrows, and community celebrations. Since regardless of everything, if you really need something, you know that these people will always be there for you, as you've been - and will be - for them.
Maybe some of the strongest ties are not necessarily based on agreeing, but rather, on agreeing to disagree. I imagine we're not the only ones...
Keep the balance,