There are things happening in my garden. Half of it is no longer wilderness, but dug over with lawn appearing as the rather grey summer plods on. A large trampoline now sits near the riverside fence. A few weeks ago a chicken coup appeared and within days was inhabited. Last week I woke to find, overnight, a handsome and hefty five bar gate had appeared at 90 degrees to a newly repaired drystone wall. And today I opened the curtains to find a very lovely little shed sat out there.
For years I’ve thought one day we would get around to doing something with the garden, but the house is probably enough of a project for a lifetime and a spinal injury doesn’t make me the most suited person to digging. Anyway, there is always editing to be done. So how is it all happening? I haven’t suddenly discovered treasure in the garden with which to pay for gardeners, but instead I have discovered sharing. We blithely tell toddlers to share, but often quietly forget about it as adults.
“There is no delight in owning anything unshared.”
My garden is becoming a place to grow food and house chickens and provide play thanks to my neighbours and it is such a delight to see it taking shape. Dylan has incredible energy, working late at night often a full day’s work, and he’s started a trend. Other neighbours have been busy clearing my garage to use as a workshop for their beautiful vintage American cars and in the process have done masses of clearing and tidying of the area around the garage. Tomorrow a skip arrives and Seth is going to have fun with sledge hammer helping to take down a semi-dilapidated outhouse. By sharing the outdoor resources of the house everyone benefits: the garden looks better, three families have a more useful space, there is more sense of local community and there are gorgeous fresh eggs.
At the end of Annie Hall, Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) says:
I thought of that old joke, y’know, the, this… this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, “Doc, my brother’s crazy; he thinks he’s a chicken.” And the doctor says, “Well, why don’t you turn him in?” The guy says, “I would, but I need the eggs.” Well, I guess that’s pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y’know, they’re totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and… but I guess we keep goin’ through it because most of us… need the eggs.
Sharing puts us into a different relationship with neighbours. It’s probably absurd by many conventional standards – disregarding fences and blurring boundaries, slightly dissolving the insular nuclear family mentality. It’s messier than just closing the door and saying ‘mine’, but there are eggs.