One way to neighbor is to invite yourself in. Ask the burning question, “May I cut your rhubarb and use it before it goes bad?” Year after year, I watch overabundance in his weedy garden go to waste. Those around fearfully observe as he crouches down to get serious about the dandelions. They want to step in. They urge him to take a break. He has ambitions of being a Centurion and he imagines keeping busy will get him there. When his wife died, the garden took on new life. The creeping of time and of bind weed have choked out the more prolific growth, but gives him something to do when the sun goes down. What is left has been carefully cultivated by neighbors. Neighbors keeping an eye on the rhubarb.
One way to neighbor is to let others see you. As I pick through his garden, I’m being watched from tall house windows. In a small town we all are. It’s startling when, knee deep in elephant eared leaves, there is a back door slam from behind. I think back, he was specific that I could have anything on his patch of land. I take pause to consider the back story, not being privy to the conversations of all those who symbiotically share his garden. I tell her, “He said I could take all the rhubarb I wanted. In fact, he said I could have anything I wanted in his garden.” She says I should take oregano, then. And I shall. I’ve already pilfered the asparagus and I have my heart set on onions. I gather the bounty in two arms and haul home my harvest. It’s hard to watch, and see, through cloudy windows.
One way to neighbor is not to take, but receive; not only give, but offer. Many times I’ve eyed his rhubarb. I swore someday I would make the time to stop and preserve what came from his garden; not let it waste. The unintended consequence of spending time in someone else’s weed patch, is that you might find yourself in the middle of a conversation. You might find yourself in the middle of a conversation with someone you didn’t know would show up. Cultivation requires both giving and receiving, and it requires time. We’re not just harvesting rhubarb on our street, we’re growing relationships.