Ours is a big back yard. We live in a neighborhood of about a dozen homes, all with big yards, all with people who generally keep themselves to themselves.
Recently I found myself near our back property line at the same time our neighbor found himself at HIS back property line. Lo and behold, they are the same line. The customarily comfortable waves-from-a-distance and hearty “Hello there!” were not appropriate at close range. We instead did what any quiet, self-respecting, non-meddling type folks do who experienced a hot, buggy August and a soaking wet September.
We talked about the weather.
How banal! How expected! And boring. Don’t forget boring. Out of all the topics in the world, we chose to spend those precious intersecting moments discussing mosquitoes and drizzle and the current unexpected sunshine and brisk breeze. So why, when we veered back to the safe sections of our yards too distant for conversation, didn’t I feel guilty? The High Queen of Hindsight, I always feel guilty. About everything. Yet I didn’t have one qualm about a brief chat on the wonderful break from heat and humidity that had driven us both out of our indoor sanctuaries in the first place.
I don’t know where this neighbor and his wife stand on the election, education, evolution, or ecology. A brief and awkward conversational foray into religion had sent them scurrying home and avoiding our mutual lot line for a few months. We haven’t gotten the courage to broach that topic again.
We chose, standing on either side of that imaginary line on a plat map, to stick to the most basic of subjects. Neither of us brought up matters of great importance, like the future of our nation, our planet, our souls. Why not?
Maybe, I mulled, we did. We stood on common ground sharing the most elemental of traits. We are both humans.
Instinctively we know this is a potential problem. Humans are seething masses of opinions and emotions and uncertanties and angers. Try reaching into THAT cauldron of physical and psychological goo and figure out where the neighbor’s story intersects with yours. I dare you.
The politics and passions and longings of humanity may be in 7.5 billion unique configurations, but we all need oxygen and food and water and warmth. Each of those basic human needs is contingent upon the weather we’re having, and we have weather. Every. Single. Day. Of our lives.
Go ahead, talk about the heat, the cold, the snow, the rain, the drought. You aren’t being trite. You and another human are meeting at your mutual lot line.