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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Thinking About Looking Good

I live in a 'Community Association'.  There's a part of me that really likes the 'community' part of that.  There are a lot of kids here and that means my kids are always close by in the company of their friends.  We moved here 6 years ago and chose this neighborhood as a safe place for our children to grow and play.  I'm realizing that is one of the few things I like about being part of this 'association'.

Today I got a letter in the mail, on formal letterhead, from our community association.  It tells me that living in a community association requires all owners to follow the governing documents, including rules and regulations.  To "help us maintain the look and feel of the community, maintain community pride, and importantly, help us promote the values of our homes and the community as a whole."  It goes on to tell me that during a recent inspection, my house has violated the governing documents by having excessive weeds in the cracks of our driveway and the cracks of the curb line at our house.

Maybe you are shocked by my weeds.  Maybe you, like me, are scratching your head a little and wondering whether this letter was an efficient use of resources and really necessary.  Which brings me to the thing I dislike the most about living in this 'community association'.  Just about everything is set up, like much of our culture and society, based on appearances only.  As long as we "look good", we are all happy.  I can only imagine the amount of money my neighbors spend on keeping up these appearances, judging solely by the number of landscaping trucks in our neighborhood on a weekly basis.  Huge trucks block half the street to unload tractors that can barely squeeze through the gates to manage lawns that are less than 1/4 of an acre.  The barrel trucks roll in to eradicate every weed and insect in sight.  The trimmers make sure everything is perfectly even, not a blade of grass out of place.  Even though we have had no rain for weeks and most of our ground is dry as a bone, there are still plenty of houses here whose grass springs an eternal green thanks to constant watering and spraying.

I guess this issue really cuts to my core because it is something I've always thought about and internalized.  When I let my hair grow its natural gray and brown, I get people telling me in the preschool line that I'm much too young to be gray and there are plenty of products that could help me with this 'problem'.  I even let it get to me enough, in a 'turning 40' moment that I dyed my hair, to be met with resounding applause and appreciation from everyone around me...but it didn't make a bit of a difference to it's going back to gray.  Can't wait to hear the comments rolling in at Kindergarten pick-up.

Back to the neighborhood, another place I am feeling like a fish out of water.  Me, with my Neuton battery-powered mower that I bought after much consideration about why I needed that over a human-powered model, humming along, waiting to be eaten for lunch by the gas-guzzling giants around me.  I've sat inside my house choking on the fumes of my neighbor's gas-powered leaf blower for 1/2 hour at a time and that is a weekly pre-mowing ritual, followed by an hour of mowing, followed by another 1/2 hour of leaf blowing (or grass blowing?).  Then the trimming starts.  And I have never once complained about this 'excessive gassing'.  There are no rules or regulations against over-maintenance.  Those are left for us greenies who are just out to destroy the neighborhood by our reckless non-use of pesticides and sprinklers.

Somehow it doesn't feel like much of a community to me....

But we do look good when you drive through (if you avert your gaze from the bottles and papers littering the street that nobody seems to notice or care about...but that's another story).

So I thank you, my internet community, for allowing me a space to reach out and find someplace to be myself and be appreciated.  Maybe that's why I don't post very often because there's a part of me that is afraid I will disappoint you, too, and then where will I swim?

But for now, I'm diving back in, swimming hard against the current and smiling at those of you heading my way! :)


  1. Kate,

    I was just randomly clicking links on my blog, and here you are! With a new post!

    Those cracks in your pavement, and those weeds growing in them? They are a sign of decay! Loss of control! They must be eradicated! This is one of the classic struggles - Man vs. Nature. It is there in your cracked pavement and your community codes and regulations. It is happening on a global level along with your neighbors' individual attempts at control.

    I think that, for the most part, we, as humans - as sentient beings - are more or less oblivious to our very existence. Life can be seen as frightening and people need to deaden themselves to that fear through what they can control. That way, they become more significant. It's manageable to survive like that.

    I say - start a garden in your front yard. Grow some food. Hang some laundry on a line.

    Your words never disappoint, Kate. Keep writing.

    See you around the bloghood,


  2. The house next to me is available, Kate. :)

    What a joke. I'm amazed that your association has chosen to take this course. Hopefully the other children will learn from yours and the next generation of the association will not be so nitwitted.

    I think it's awesome that you've got some greenie supporters here on the web. I know I usually fall somewhere slightly short of being your best supporter in words (David's eloquence has that wrapped up quite well, don't you agree?) but I know you've considered the things you say and do in order to truly be wise about your sustainable life and I do hope you'll always continue to share that wisdom with the rest of us.