I seem to be afraid of my neighbor. In one of the five houses surrounding our property is someone I have never talked to in the last few years except when she is upset with me, so I really don’t know her any other way. Well, once when I went over with fresh lettuce to share, she didn’t act angry, only cold, and, No, she didn’t need any lettuce.
Now it has come to pass that we had a survey done of the lines on two sides of our property in preparation for replacing the fence. My husband suspected that our property was larger than the fence perimeter indicated, and he wanted to see whether it was by enough that we could build the new fence with the old one in place so the dogs would be contained. He was right–we own several feet of the land outside the fence. Moreover, two of this neighbor’s trees are on our side, and several are on the line.
I notice in an email dated a few months ago that this neighbor responded to my information that we’d be doing a survey by saying that she expected her trees to remain intact and undamaged. The history of the trees: she planted a row of cedars while we were living overseas and renting the house out. Not a problem at first, but they have grown several feet a year since then and will soon render most of our yard virtually useless for vegetable gardening. At first I just sighed and thought, well, we’ll be moving in a year or two, so whatever. But that plan changed, and we are staying. I can’t imagine a life without vegetable gardening. But my husband and I have not yet broached the subject with her, though we’ve talked it over.
Today I sent an email suggesting that she look at the survey markers–simply that, no mention of the location of the boundary. I am still putting off the entry into that conversation. Now it seems we have not only the desire but also the right to have these trees topped, removed, or replaced, restoring sunlight to the garden.
My imaginary conversations with the neighbor begin in various ways. One, she stomps over and confronts us, angry at what that the stakes indicate, and questions the survey. She hints that we placed them ourselves. Two, I invite her over for coffee or soup to discuss things. She refuses and says there’s no way she’s going to accept this finding if it means her trees are at risk. Three, I knock on her door, more of the same.
I want her to see us as fair and reasonable, as good neighbors. But the fact is, she has yelled at me over the fence for my kids being loud and for operating a saw too early, and emailed me several times about our dogs either barking or escaped and harassing her cats. When she yelled at me, I marched over to her house and said I didn’t appreciate it, and if she had a problem I would listen to civil talk before she got so angry. The first time she admitted to having a headache and being in a foul temper, and the second time she asked that I refrain from sawing before and after her work hours. So I felt those issues were resolved, and after that she emailed in a relatively polite way.
Part of one imaginary conversation has me saying, We never talk unless there’s a problem, and you are always upset with me. Why don’t we go out for a beer (even though I don’t like beer, I think that’s the spirit) and discuss anything but neighbor problems? I would really like to see her smile, even laugh. I’d like to know her other side, and her mine.
And then I want the trees topped. I’m not a people pleaser, I just want to do unto others. And when others don’t do unto me in a way that creates an ongoing problem, I might confront them. Except this time, I can’t seem to visualize success. I’m visualizing a weary defeat in which she doesn’t offer any concessions, refuses to allow us to replace the trees with something smaller, refuses to admit that she should have checked in with us before planting the trees, demands we pay for another survey. I imagine being worn down, allowing her animosity and self-centeredness to color our whole experience in this neighborhood (despite three other wonderful neighbors with who we have friendly relations), and moving away.
Wish me luck!