The canopies of this water oak and live oak have grown together and now shade the new deck my son built for me. That boring town home used to be sky. I planted both of these trees shortly after I moved to this house in 1996. I had lived a few blocks away in a small bungalow with an enormous live oak and this house had no trees at all. When that bungalow became too small for my active son and his legos and we moved to this house. Some grass and a chain link fence with barbed wire – a parking lot and a separate guest house. That was the deal. No curb appeal. Imagination required.
I began reading landscaping books and they all said “plant trees first”. Then shrubs. Then flowers etc… made sense. So I planted lots of trees. As I was an amateur, I planted some too close to the house. But it’s hard to visualize how massive trees will become. Over time I hacked out concrete little by little and kept planting. We now have our own personal park. I’ve resisted those who urged me to make it orderly.
The state of my garden has often reflected my spiritual and emotional state. When it’s neglected and shabby, overgrown and straggly, usually I am too. I’m working too hard and forgetting to take care of myself and my nest. When the plants are drooping so am I.
I didn’t know much about Third Ward when I moved here in 1984. i just liked the look of it. Messy. Edgy. Mixed. I have always gravitated to predominantly black neighborhoods. Because there’s always a welcome and I feel safe. When I lived in Minneapolis I lived on Lyndale Ave. in a predominately black area of South Minneapolis. When I lived in Austin, I lived in East Austin. I’ve always been warned about these neighborhoods which I still find humorous. I’ve had real neighbors here and in all of those other places. Real neighbors. You will never ever know how good it is. Until you need one. My son and I have had Weezie and Ms. Clara and Rev. Stamps. And Adrian. And Faith and Bobby. You had a fence and a security code.
When my son was born in Hermann Hospital I was less than two miles from our little home. His first outing was Hermann Park. We’re there – one or both of us – several times a week. He knows more people in this neighborhood than I do and more people know him. The artist. The volunteer. The neighbor. With a saw and a paintbrush. The separate house became his home and his studio/workshop. Every day something new comes out of his studio. We are a few steps from one another and our paths literally cross but we keep a respectful distance. Neighbors and family.
Living in one place for a long time changes how you look at the world. You are fixed and growing like the trees I planted while everything around you is torn down. Being rooted, having a stake in a place is so different than camping in your abode – until your income or your job prompts a move.
I live here. This is my home. My mom says about me that I don’t really live in Houston as I’ve never lived outside a six block area of the same neighborhood. There’s truth in that. I don’t live in Houston. I live in my home in a neighborhood located in Houston.
I will be so glad when you can all come over again.