Once a new homebuyer sent her gardener over to my door to ask me to let her come into my yard and cut some branches off one of my backyard trees so she could plant a "sun garden." I was understanding up to a point, but then I said "these are wooded lots" (here in this neighborhood she had chosen instead of the sunny, treeless suburbs) so maybe she should plant a garden that does well in the shade. The gardener got quite snippy and started lecturing me about the law and asserting that she had a legal right to cut back the trees in her yard. One of the benefits of being a lawyer is that when someone decides to lecture you about law, it doesn't take you any time at all to decide that person is an ass. I didn't say, "You're lecturing me about law? I'm a law professor!" I just said, "You want to assert your legal rights. Fine. So do I. You can't cut any branches off my tree." I love the way she was so wrapped up in getting what she wanted and using any argument that she reminded me to stick to my own preferences and not do her any favors. And: great way to make a good impression as a new neighbor.
But that was an anomaly. Most homeowners here in University Heights work within the beautiful shadiness. A neighbor two houses down has this neatly kept arrangment with stone rabbit:
And my next-door neighbor has a yard full of shade-loving flowers, with the peonies beginning their days of glory. As I take this picture, the neighbor's mother comes out and talks to me and as we talk about peonies she almost remembers some lines about peonies by Keats and--elsewhere--Danny Kaye:
I say I'm going to put some of these pictures on my website, and I'll find those peony quotes and put them up as well, and I give her my blog address. The Keats poem is Ode on Melancholy:
But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
Imprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.
And the Danny Kaye lines? Here you see one of his songs was "The Peony Bush." But I can't find the lyrics, so you'll have to buy the album, which seems to be a nice big collection of comic songs.
Anyway, I arrive at my own yard and see my overgrown oleaster hedge in bloom with its teeny-tiny, very un-peony-like flowers: