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Letter To The Editor: About My High Weeds And Ugly Yard

on September 25, 2017 - 9:56am
By MICHELLE AUSTIN
Los Alamos

When I was a little girl growing up in New York State in the 1970s, my parents bought their first house in a small village with good schools to raise their family. We moved into a one story ranch on a culdesac where all the other houses looked pretty much the same with manicured lawns and an elm tree out front. Kids played in the streets until the sun went down and we all had big back yards to play in. Back then fencing wasn't common so we kids could run from back yard to back yard as though it was all common land. It was the American dream for a young family.

Unfortunately, my dad didn't fit in so well. He was a 60s hippy who still wore his hair long. He had lost an eye as a boy and couldn't afford a glass eye, so he wore a pirate patch. Along with his old Levi's and work boots, he was a working class man living in a new middle class community. Neighbors didn't like the way he looked and they sure didn't like the beat up old station wagon in the driveway. We were a young family with many mouths to feed so a junker was all he could afford. Thankfully, my dad never really cared what people thought of him, his pirate patch, or his car. He worked hard, laughed loud, and lived life his way.

One summer, my parents decided to till up half of the big back yard and start growing their own food. Corn, beans, peas, tomatoes and tall sunflowers. Oh, did the neighbors balk. They were angry over the loss of their backyard view and the offense of a garden, which they deemed unsightly. The ugliness impinged on their world.  While the garden may have been ugly to our neighbors, it was food for a young family struggling to get by. And isn't that a common story. People who may be living with hardship, poverty, disability, illness or age, people who do not look like everyone else, who cannot afford, physically or economically, to match the high, supposedly better, standards of others, these are the people who are targeted, ticketed, fined, and even harassed.  

When you look at your neighbor's home, yard, car or trash bins, are you angry by the unsightliness of their messy life? Does their old car, their high weeds, their chipping paint, and their trash bins on the road too early disturb your sensibilities? Do you want local government to make your world pretty again by legislating, ticketing, and fining your neighbors? If so, it's time to consider moving into an HOA protected community where like minded people can create rules and police their neighbors as they see fit. If you do not live in an HOA community, please remember that you live in America, the land of the free. Your vision may be beautiful and pleasing to you, but it has no say over my vision or how I choose to live my life.

Your vision and wishes and the County's codes, notices, citations, and fines do not change the physical and economic reality of your neighbors. They will not be able to afford to paint their house because you want it to look nicer. They will not be able to afford to landscape their yard because you want their yard to enhance your property value. They will not be able to afford a new car or even to tow away the old car because you don't like it. Or, maybe, they will not physically be able to maintain their yard because they are old or ill and no matter how much you try to force them with threats of court and fines, they will not get well or young again.

To those who are offended by the messiness of life, I am sorry that people get old and ill. I am sorry that people are poor or struggling to afford food at the end of each month. I am sorry that you find yourself surrounded by a reality you do not like to see. If we look at our neighbors, and their ugly yards, with compassion and a neighborly spirit, instead of seeing code violations, we will see people. Instead of wanting to cite and fine our neighbors, we will want to find real solutions that help people. Solutions that support neighbors and unite a community instead of divide it.


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