Sunday, July 12, 2009


I just had a lovely evening walk. Listened to the doves. Doves are funny birds--slow-moving and seemingly slow-witted. But perhaps for that very reason, they make the most peaceful sound. The whole evening was golden and, mercy of mercies at this time of year, not hot. Some people manage apparently by magic to have lawns so green, even at this dry time of year, that it almost makes your eyes hurt, especially in the sunset.

This was an especially peaceful walk, because I left my petition at home. I'm involved in a petition drive now opposing a local transgender and homosexual rights ordinance. Collecting petition signatures is a painful process for me. I don't mind it too much when I know ahead of time that the people are supportive. Then it's a good chance to talk to the likeminded, tell them what's up with the ordinance in some detail (since I've been following it for six months), and feel encouraged. But asking people whose views I don't know--that's hard. It's especially hard, because I have a lot of good will in my neighborhood. I love my neighborhood, and I daresay that I'm a fairly familiar figure here. I walk the same route nearly every day, though not always at the same time. The people on that route are often out in their yards or gardens; they smile; we wave. A few years ago when I did a brief stint as Republican precinct delegate, I remember that several people who, as far as I knew, didn't even know my name, saw me on my walks and said, "I voted for you! I saw your name on the ballot." (You understand: There was no actual competition for the pair of Republican precinct delegates from this precinct. My husband and I were elected by acclaim by the few voting Republicans.)

What I'm trying to say is that I have exactly the easy, undemanding, apolitical relationship with my neighbors that seems to me ideal. We occasionally exchange mild gossip, gardening tips, local news, and small talk. If, as is the case right now, there is a panhandler known to be doing the rounds of the neighborhood, we warn each other about him. It's friendly, and yet I don't even know most of these people's names. Except for those who live immediately next door and across the street, I know most of them by definite description: The guy who lives catty-corner and is into photography. The lady in the small white house with the finch feeder. The older man with the two little terriers.

In this context, asking these neighbors to sign a petition on an unpleasant and controversial issue on which I don't know their opinions almost seems rude. It certainly risks making them shy away from me for the next few months rather than stopping to chat or smiling and waving. I've been turned down already by a couple of the few neighbors whose names I do know and have tried, I think successfully, to make sure that the exchange ends with no hard feelings. It's all most awkward.

So tonight I took a break and went out with no petition and pen stuffed into my pocket. Just an ordinary walk. As it happened, I did stop to talk to a man ("the guy in the gray house with the kids in Christian school and the pool set up in the back yard") whom I suspected would be supportive and have been hoping to see, and he did indeed say that I can come back later this week and get his and his wife's signatures. But it somehow made it easier that I couldn't collect them right then. We were still just talking.

It is one of the great sadnesses of our age that so many things are politicized. Yet it comes upon us. We do not choose it. It is forced upon us by those who would force our world to give way to theirs, who would force unreality upon us as reality. We did not choose this culture war. As the Lady Eowyn says, it takes but one foe to breed a war. And now that it is upon us, we must fight it as best we can. But please God, neighbors can still be neighbors, and there will still be evenings off with the doves, the sunset, and the cool green grass.


Jeff Culbreath said...

Just read this for the third time. It is beautifully written - melancholic but with a deep love of people and life. Thanks again!

Lydia McGrew said...

Thank you, Jeff. It's a different world from the farming world, but a good one too, in its own particular way.

Frank P. Ordaz said...


I just had to comment because I have one of those neighborhoods where I know a great portion of my neighbors. In fact we are having a block party this Saturday. But I was one of those voters who had a sign post out for our prop 8 in California last year. It was an amendment to our Constitution that supported marriage between a man and a woman. Some of my neighbors were against it and some were for it. But I felt that by putting up the sign would encourage many of my fellow conservatives. In fact, one fellow traveler came up to me and said that they felt the same way but just felt that they would make enemies in our neighborhood.

I just figured that I was also making a statement for my boys to see. You can't always be afraid of what others think.

I like the TS Eliot post but his kind of poetry really hurts my brain....

Lydia McGrew said...

Frank, I heard what people went through who had signs or bumper stickers for Prop. 8. I think you were brave to have a sign for it, and congratulations on having the courage to do the right thing. It sounds like your neighbors at least didn't get violent! And since you weren't disinvited from the block party, it sounds like they took it pretty well despite disagreement. Some of the road intimidation stories I heard, as well as stories about intimidating businessmen who contributed, were terrifying.

The homosexual activists in my town are unnerving in their sneering pronouncement that everyone who disagrees with them is a crazy bigot but so far are not violent.

Don't worry about not being able to get into "Little Gidding," but if you want to read some Eliot that _doesn't_ hurt one's brain and is just lots of fun, try his poems about cats, collected as Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. They are really enjoyable. My daughter recited "Macavity" for a Talent Night when she was ten or eleven. It's a spoof on the character of Professor Moriarty in the Sherlock Holmes stories, if you're a Sherlock Holmes fan. Moriarty is this super-criminal who is behind crimes all over England but can never be caught. Eliot makes up a cat character who is just like that. And if you've ever had a cat, you know they are like that, too. When you find the mischief they've been up to, they're always "miles away."