Mary and I were in your garden the other day, I told Chuck and Charlotte at church. You weren't home.
That's funny, Charlotte said, we were in your garden the other day, too. We wanted to see the gourd.
Pretty wild, huh?
Yeah. Cool. Did you see my canna lilies? They've never bloomed as much as they did this year.
I'll say, I said, canna-less.
Mary and I have been trekking around town peeking at other people's gardens all week. We get as close as we can without attracting police attention. If the garden belongs to someone we know, we venture even closer, peeking over their fences and even inviting ourselves in. What would be the worst that could happen? A ride in the squad car and a few hours in the town jail, waiting for our children to come and bail us out.
Exiled from Curves for a month until I can raise my arm and lift things, I love my sightseeing walks with Mary. Sometimes Helen comes. I see Barbara at church -- You should come out with us sometime, I say. Jack's the one who should get out there, she says. Well, why not? A grandfather or two walking around with us wouldn't be bad at all. I begin to imagine a phalanx, striding around town, seeing it neighborhood by neighborhood in the detail only pedestrians know. Houses that have changed color. Houses that have been bought and immediately razed to the ground in order to erect graceless structures that go right out to the edge of the property -- no garden. Garages that used to be barns. Beautiful old trees.
We walk and marvel at the changes in our town -- who used to live where, what used to be here. Sometimes, when we try to locate someone's former home, we try and then give up: we can't remember which one it was. Maybe they've completely remodeled it. Maybe it wasn't on this street, but the next one. Or maybe it's not even there any more.
Some of the new things are beautiful. Other are a fright -- we have strong opinions. The slight sadness change always brings with it dissipates in the flush of exercise -- our legs move, our feet hit the pavement, we climb a small hill and our hearts pound lightly. At the end of our walk we are at once tired and energized.
And we love our town. Treasure our years in it -- Mary's lived here for fifty years, I for twenty-five. Treasure the children we've raised in it. The fun we've had. Even the sorrows we've had -- they have been sharp, but the cradle of love in which one can live if one chooses to risk connection sustains the soul through anything. God sets us in a community from our first breath; we live in community the way a fish lives in water. Chronic loneliness is not imposed on anyone, married or single -- even if it feels that way to the sufferer. Whether we know it or not, we choose it. And, if we have the courage to face the unexpected things that happen in life lived together, we can choose something else.