Nettie and I moved out of our house this past week, and a contractor crew of painters took the field. We moved in with our neighbors across the street, neighbors we’ve known for nearly forty years.

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Great friends, generous people, and fellow travelers in the sweep of life that began with sharing the experiences of the birth of our children, then caring for our infants, then shuttling our toddlers to pre-school, walking them to elementary, driving them (and then teaching them to drive) to high school.

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We shared the highs and lows of the kids-going-off-to-college, the empty-nester period, then the marriages of our children (some not all) and now we’ll be exploring the stage of grandparenthood with all its attendant joys and complications. Our neighbors have three grandkids, and we’re 8 weeks away from our first.

Oh yes, we did other things during this time…like working for a living…but family was the focus.

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It was a wide expanse of life going by very quickly, most of it lived right here in Woodland Hills, California, with a near decade-long side trip for me and Nettie to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

One could easily become reflective at this stage in our life…but let’s avoid that and stay for the moment in the present.

What’s life like on the other side of the street where I sit with the dawn changing from gray to blue in our neighbor’s bedroom? (Nettie and I are sleeping in our own separate bedroom, so don’t get any untoward ideas about our week at the neighbors!)

What is life like over here? It’s the same…but different. And the difference, though nuanced, is illuminating.

The birch trees that grace front yards from the angle of my temporary bedroom are new trees to me. They are delicate and beautiful. Their secret branches and subtle intelligence I’ve never noticed before from my calloused perspective across the street.

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The facades of houses seen from “over here” are likewise fresh facades, their roof-lines interesting and sharp against the skyline. I can peer into the garages and driveways that I only glanced just yesterday. The front doors are sturdier somehow, the peaked windows gaze back with clear eyes.

The arrival and departures of my “distant neighbors” (just two and three doors away from my house) are now part of my daily rhythm. They leave for work as I rise, they come back home when I settle in for dinner. I wave hello and good-bye daily to people I saw only a few times a year and typically from the shell of my car or theirs.

roof airThere are new sounds and old sounds heard anew. The air conditioners on adjacent roofs are loud over here, too, but a different loud. Other sounds…the TV next door, the gardeners on another day, squealing children on the other side of a fence and the barking dog that chases them demand my attention. I see wives kissing husbands hello. A teenager working on his car in the driveway who had been hidden from my view.

And yet…my daily rituals have not changed. I wake at the same hour, eat virtually the same breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Shower and sleep, shop and visit family and friends the same as before.

coffeeAnd I write on my strict schedule the novel that chases me and fills my days (my nights as well). From this neighbor’s bedroom, I write. In the neighbor’s living room, I write. At the kitchen table, I write. It is a constancy that cleaves me to myself.

“How is that book coming along,” my neighbor asks over a cup of coffee this morning.

“Oh fine,” I say, “I’m gaining a new perspective on it every day.”

“Hmm,” she nods, “I’d like to read it one day.”

“I would too,” I laugh, “I would, too.”

So, yes, some perspectives have changed, some remain constant. And what does this say about my life or your life?

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Well, I’m back home now and last night, Sunday night, was the super blood moon eclipse. I took a swim. I looked up at the moon through the trees that border my backyard.

I floated and imagined myself not across the street, but on the moon looking down on me in the pool. That certainly would be a new perspective for me.

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Of course, we’ve all seen the classic shots of our blue marble from the various moon landings. We know we are a tiny globe in a big dark universe.

We know that. But how often do we feel that? Getting out of my house and into someone else’s world gave me a moment’s pause to look and to actually see what was in front of me.

The next super moon eclipse is 18 years away. I’ll be 82 by then. Tempus fugit.

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I wonder what my perspective will be then? I hope it’ll still be from above ground, rather than below it!

 

 

 

2 Responses to The Other Side Of The Street

  1. You and Nettie are lucky to have such wonderful friends/neighbors, and it’s great to read that you know that. Man, you got a super red moon; here in Sherman Oaks, it was hazy orange half-hidden by a cloud. A cloud! When do we ever get clouds here in southern CA?… It’s always good to see “what’s right in front of” us. I find that that can happen if I just sit in a corner of the room that I never sit in – the whole place looks and feels entirely new….Thanks for another good read.

  2. Nancy says:

    It was our pleasure to have you. Here’s to good friends and good memories!

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