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Mary Richmond

Mary Richmond
Hyannis, Massachusetts, USA
August 09
Sole Proprietor
Cape Cod Art and Nature
Nature Columnist for weekly Cape Cod Newspapers. Artist, writer, naturalist and educator putting it all together to make a living.


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JANUARY 30, 2013 9:01AM

Being good neighbors....

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walking the beach by Mary Richmond 

       Recently I have become more and more aware and amazed at how disrespectful some people are to their neighbors and their neighborhood in general. I am seeing young people tossing bags of fast food trash out car windows, working men tossing Styrofoam coffee cups and food wrappers out of their trucks and vans and pedestrians dropping their used containers on the street while they walk on. Whatever happened to “Litterbug, litterbug, shame on you!” huh?

       And it’s not just about the trash. Some neighbors forget they are neighbors, sharing a time and space and living in close proximity. They make lots of noise, strip trees and bushes that offered a buffer to said noise and just generally behave in ways that would have seriously upset my grandmother who never ever left her garbage out where the neighbors could see it, never mind, ahem, air her dirty laundry in public.

        I am fortunate to live in a wonderful neighborhood where I have lived for almost 30 years. Most of my neighbors have also lived here for 30 years or more and even the newer arrivals settle right in as if they’ve always been here. We make sure that this one’s driveway gets shoveled and this one’s newspaper is brought up to the door and that this one’s cat gets fed when they are away. We share a lot more than that as well but we live in a semi urban neighborhood where it is also important to be discreet and not notice certain things. We don’t litter in each other’s yards and we clean up after our pets. We celebrate new family members and mourn each other’s losses for they belong to us in a way, too. When I read or hear about people building places that are fought tooth and nail by their neighbors I often wonder how they will all settle into that neighborhood with all that discord between them. I guess I have a lot of my grandmother in me still because I read these things and think, “Really, where are their manners?”

       It’s not just people that are our neighbors of course. The birds and squirrels, the deer and foxes, the fish and the butterflies are our neighbors as well. A little neighborly respect goes a long way in the natural world as well. Just as we would be horrified if our neighbors put out poison in their back yards for our pets to eat or drink we should be equally horrified of putting poisons into the ground and water for our wild neighbors to eat and drink and yet that gets done here all summer long in the names of landscaping and laundry, to name a few.

       This morning I watched in horror from the distance as a man twice my size got out of his truck at the beach and walked down with a gallon jug of dark oil that he poured into the water. He was back in his truck and gone before I could get his license info and when I finally reached where he had been I could see and smell that it was indeed motor oil he had dumped at the water’s edge. What was he thinking? I believe any of us can recycle these at local landfills for free or take them to a place that changes oil for a small fee. This is a beach with many winter ducks, a dozen or so brant and many gulls as well as a lot of shellfish. I am still shaking my head over this. It was so…..I don’t even have words for what it was.

        I realize that most if not all of the folks that read this are probably awesome neighbors who do their best to be kind, considerate and empathetic to their wild neighbors as well as their human ones but what is going on out there? Why have we begun to forget that being good neighbors is part of what makes our culture a strong one? We seem to be forgetting how to be respectful of each other and of nature. I know that we cannot give up but some days it is very difficult….

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Good post. I don't think we are forgetting. I think it has always been difficult to be a neighbor. I do yearn for a place to live isolated from society but here I am in a neighborhood. Mostly I keep my head down and beneath the radar. I am just thankful I am not in Afghanistan where neighbors are shooting neighbors.
Thanks for your comment. I really love my neighborhood but here I was referring to the big neighborhood as well, the one we all live in. It seems to me we've gotten lazy in our stewardship of the environment in general but also the way it affects our quality of life in our own neighborhoods. In my thoughts, there is no excuse for littering or soiling the water....and yes, like you I am glad not to live where neighbors are shooting each other.