After many years of art school, the process of making and critiquing, I came out tired of the process. I have yet to find my way back into it, but intend to. In the meantime, my "art" has been creating in a different way, out in our yard.
It's a process, it's making, watching, revising, and all in all satisfying. It's not the most beautiful art I've ever made, not the most poignant, not the most revolutionary, but it feels like the most important thing I can be doing (aside from being a mother, wife, etc.) right now. It inspires me to make other, more traditional, art and it keeps me yearning to learn and use my brain, something I don't get to do on a daily basis.
At the same time, as I approach our yard as an ever-evolving studio, we have people around us who don't like what they see. The feeling of being judged is one I thought I'd mostly escaped since high school, but living in a suburban town, I'm learning that not everyone grows out of being judgmental, and those are the people who will never be happy with the way we, Charlie, Mabel, and I, live.
One particular neighbor is an elderly lady who speaks no English. She has children who come over and check on her, they either do her communicating for her or for themselves. Either way, that communicating consists of requests for yard work: cut down a bush, remove an old but healthy oak tree, remove another area of shrubs that produce berries and, therefore, create a mess on her laundry. They also asked to remove several large pine trees, offered to pay for the removal, then decided they weren't going to pay for the removal once the job was done, but further suggested we have the roots and stump removed. Beyond those requests, they rake leaves into our yard and throw sticks and branches over the property line because they fall from a tree that is on our property. Then they complain about the unkempt nature of our yard. They are, in short, unsatisfied, and after years of trying to keep the peace, we let them know we were done doing favors for them.
Since getting pregnant, we've been trying to buy the house we currently live in, which has been bad timing on our part. My first trimester left me super grumpy and nauseous all the time. The second trimester has brought a new form of exhaustion, and more recently sore hips and back. Somewhere in between, we had an appraiser visit the house and make a lengthy list of repairs that must be made before the bank will finance. Several of those repairs were in our back yard, so the yard has, to be frank, been a mess.
Then the holidays came...
Since then we've been resting and opting for indoor projects rather than outdoor ones. Why? Well, it's cold out there most days, and neither of us actually wants to face or deal with those neighbors. We don't make eye contact, don't give friendly waves, we don't acknowledge them, but their bullying presence and disapproving judgement can be felt across the property boundary.
I've all but abandoned that "studio space" simply to avoid the neighboring family. So yes, it has been ugly and in disarray. Then last week we received a letter from the Town, a letter that has left me feeling like the teacher wrote my name on the blackboard and is going to call my parents because of my bad behavior.
This letter that calls my sacred space a Public Nuisance. It would be naive to think the Town sought our yard out on their own and decided it was nuisance-worthy, so I immediately wrote the officer to get the issue resolved. He was the most polite, sincerely helpful man, far more than I expected. He pointed out a few things that we could do to tidy up the place, but the creative aspects he had nothing particular to critique and simply said everyone has a different idea of art.
For that, I'm incredibly grateful. Maybe, once again, I'll get a full night's sleep. For those with similar neighbor issues, I feel for you, I really do.