Love — or tolerate — your neighbors

Published 10:16 pm Tuesday, July 12, 2016

By Susan and Biff Andrews

We live in downtown Suffolk on a short street near an arm of Lake Meade. There are so many trees that you can’t even see us on Google Earth in the middle of winter.

But not everyone on the block is so wildlife-crazy. Many are perfect-yard people with exquisite lawns or mildly negligent people with nary an ornamental plant in the yard. Can’t we all just get along?

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The answer is: Yes! We can!

On our block, people bring in each others’ trash cans as soon as they’re emptied — for the old, the ill, or just to be nice to a neighbor.

Most people on our block grow vegetables, and they share. In the past five days we have received butterbeans, ichiban eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, green beans and kale (at this time of year!). That’s aside from the fresh corn and cantaloupes people have purchased extra quantities of just to give to others. We eat well.

Still on the subject of food, there is a constant coming and going of dinner rolls, fish, shrimp, soups, lumpia, oysters, pancit — whatever ya got.

Neighbors help neighbors with yards, especially the sick, the elderly, travelers or absentees visiting relatives. No quid pro quo. No “what’s in it for me?” We dog-sit and cat-sit.

After our Suffolk tornado, after Isabel, after the recent nor’easters, it was all for one and one for all.

Need a babysitter for an hour or two for an appointment? Ask a neighbor. Lemonade stand? People will come out to support the kid — over-generously. Halloween? It’s a love fest.

So, what does any of this have to do with a master naturalist column? Let’s go back to yard-keeping. My neighbor loves his lawn with a passion, and it is surely beautiful. But I think lawns are awful, since no wildlife will inhabit them.

Do my neighbor and I argue over it? Does he complain about my stray leaves, or do I ask him not to weed whack too close to the lake? No. I take care of my property my way, and he tends to his.

Nor do we shoot each other over it. I’m sure there are some gun enthusiasts on the block, but there’s no gunfire anytime. We never even discuss it.

He asked me this morning if I had any use for cinder blocks and supplied the five I said I could use. Let a thousand flowers bloom.

We CAN all get along. We can, in fact, treasure one another.

My neighbor supports political candidates with signs. I don’t rip them up. He’s welcome to express his views. He brings us peanuts every Peanut Fest. We have black and white on the block. We get along. Hugs and questions about grandkids.

Wildlife yards with brush piles and leaf pens can coexist with manicured lawns.

Recent current events should have caused all of us to examine our tolerance for others.

“On the block,” where we live — now, there’s a template for the rest of the nation. Love your neighbors, or at least tolerate them, and share food and share your time. Help the elderly or infirm. Take care of your own business and leave others alone.

I say again, take care of your own rat killing, and leave me to mine. I promise I won’t do it with a gun.

Let’s put the “us” back in “USA.”

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at