What follows is yet another story of how patriarchy is destroying our culture through the lens of personal narrative. This is a pattern we must uncover, reveal for what it is and refuse to participate. As bell hooks once said, “your silence will not protect you”. Especially from insanity.
I was gone when the U-Haul moved out.
For almost 19 years Ugly neighbor lied, manipulated, tried to steal land, stole my young balsam trees, ignored covenants on our deeds and most recently started to set off explosives.
Six months after moving in here this guy cut down my trees and built a bridge over the brook on my land. It never occurred to me that he did it. Oh, I wasn’t accustomed to this sophisticated level of manipulation. When I approached Ugly neighbor (alias ‘nice guy’ with a fake halloween pumpkin smile) to tell him what I believed someone else had done, I discovered he built the bridge; he cut down my trees. Stunned, it barely registered when he said “I did it for you.” WHAT???
Accustomed to the old fashioned ‘respect your neighbor policy’ I had no frame of reference for the hell that was coming my way.
The plot thickened. Determined to get along with these folks (he had a wife) I agreed to have the road plowed by a guy who just never got around to keeping my driveway open for two years. Then something happened – did this guy go to jail? Lose his license? Don’t remember.
In the meantime behind my back Ugly neighbor had contacted someone else to plow, never told me and I got a bill. Furious, I wrote the company informing them I had no idea what this man had done and was not going to comply because of the way this situation had been handled. Instead I called reputable folks that I already knew to plow. Problem solved.
By now I was getting it. These neighbors were poisoned apples, but I attempted a few more times to open the doors of communication between us, if only to diffuse tension and put an end to their stupid silent treatment.
The last time I spoke with Ugly neighbor was in 2012 when I approached him in the spirit of reconciliation once again. That conversation I recall vividly. I told him that we didn’t even have to like each other but that we shared physical boundaries and could at the very least be civil to one another. Ugly neighbor’s response was that “once he liked me, but because I had betrayed him three times he no longer did”. WHAT? This sounded like some kind of bad fairy tale – three times betrayed by? Certainly not by me. Pure projection on his part. Another reversal and crazymaker.
More years of silence. And then Ugly neighbor retired and that first spring he beheaded every single tree that bordered the road we shared. Trees stripped and bleeding, crowns hacked off, limbs mangled beyond recognition. All the poor birds that were nesting lost their homes and I was flooded with terrified avian immigrants. Who knows how many birds were lost.
Every person that came down this road witnessed the carnage and said “this guy must be crazy” or something to that effect.
Why, some asked? I shook my head in confusion. I didn’t know.
When the truth finally seeped in I was initially shocked. All this hatred was directed at me. This man knew how much I loved trees and of course, as a coward, this was how he visibly enacted his ongoing revenge (meanwhile he was stealing young trees from my land and planting them on his property). The landscape around his house looked tidy; it wasn’t until someone came down the road that the frightening wall of carnage became evident. Of course, as a naturalist I knew in time nature would heal what she could. Since then the trees are returning, some still struggling, but most are doing their best to emerge from out of the monstrous piles, the wall of chaos and slash.
When I realized Ugly neighbor’s hatred was out of control I had no choice except to turn away. Not engaging, or making useless attempts to reason with a crazy person seemed my only recourse and I took it.
I know this sounds naive but until I met Ugly neighbor I believed that “evil” was a human construction and not actually REAL. Now I had finally learned a terrible lesson.
Evil thrives in some people, and in these ever darkening times when hatred and revenge have become ‘normalized’ getting the message that evil was REAL and ever present as a reality was a truth I needed to embrace.
The abuse didn’t cease. Ugly neighbor plus cronies used my land as their winter playground while I spent time in New Mexico during a period of four years. During that time he cut down more trees on my property. I was forced to set up cameras to document Ugly neighbor’s behavior, so now I have an abundance of proof.
The final insult came when Ugly neighbor put his place up for sale advertising that he had five plus acres (almost an acre more) when our deeds state he owns 4.8 acres. So whose land was he claiming? Why, mine, of course. He also attempted to appropriate some of my long term abutting neighbor’s land, by putting up ‘No Trespassing’ signs on his property too! My good neighbor and I have since re – marked our boundaries.
Last night when walking up the road with my two little dogs I thought about the difficult lesson that I had been forced to learn – and could actually feel a sense of gratitude.
In the stillness of the evening light I spoke to the trees; I had witnessed their mutilation and slaughter, now I sensed their relief.
BIO: Sara is a naturalist, ethologist (a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Maine.