Here is a funny story contributed by one of students:
A few years ago, our old neighbor put up a tasteful, unobtrusive, umbrella-type clothesline in his back yard. He erected it right next to the backyard fence that divided our property from his. The clothesline was invisible to the street. Not thinking we would mind, he decided to ask for our blessing since the clothesline would be in full view of our deck and yard. As our neighbor suspected, we did not mind in the least. In fact, his clothesline fit in nicely with our compost bin and chicken coop. The way we saw it, these rural amenities made our cookie cutter houses feel like home.
Of course, someone complained to the HOA, this being A Respectable Suburban Neighborhood, and all. So one afternoon, while my husband and I stood at the fence chatting with our neighbor about the blight on our squash vines and the wonders of fresh eggs, our neighbor’s doorbell rang. Our neighbor yelled, “Out in back.”
A man with a clipboard and digital camera walked into our neighbor’s yard. He made a beeline toward our neighbor and introduced himself without so much as acknowledging my husband or me. He was the HOA (Homeowner’s Association) Fun-sponge. The fun-sponge told our neighbor that someone had complained to the HOA about a clothesline in this yard. He verified our neighbor’s address and asked if there was a clothesline on the premesis. Our neighbor pointed to the clothesline that stood less than three hops from where we were all gathered.
“You mean that one?”
As if on cue, one of our chickens jumped the fence and roosted on the clothesline. Perfect timing. The fun-sponge cocked his head to one side for a moment, as if processing the image.
“What is that?”
“No, on the clothesline.”
“Oh that. It’s a chicken.”
“Where did that come from?”
I couldn’t help myself. The answer just blurted out.
“It came from an egg.”
We and our neighbor were both “cited” for violating our HOA Deed Restrictions. Good thing the guy didn’t notice the other two chickens on our roof.
Just had to share.
Suburbia, Pickastate, U.S.
Many of us want to live in exclusive neighborhoods such as the one above, where exclusive indicates being removed from the natural world. Or at least giving the appearance of graciously controlling nature. Bel’s story is a great illustration of the outright folly of such designs.
But along with being funny, such homeowner’s association pacts are dangerous. One HOA pact in suburban Eugene mandates lawns that can only be maintained by the chemicals that the city’s stormwater committee asks its citizens not to use in a colorful postcard that begins, “Is your lawn pesticide free– maybe it should be”.
What is it taht causes some of us to prefer herbicides with their deadly consequences to the maligned dandelion– every part of which is edible and healthful. In fact, one way dandelions came to the Northwest is in the medicine bag of a pioneer doctor’s wife headed for Seattle.
We want exclusive golf courses with their perfect greens, but the herbicides used to maintain those killed a golfer a few years back. He was in the habit of licking his tee for good luck, and he keeled over dead mid-way through the course.
Here’s the bottom line: nature is us. And we can neither banish nor control it without taking ourselves off the planet.
So suppose we had homeowner’s association pacts for planet earth. What would they look like? Surely, they would allow us to take advantage of solar energy to dry our clothes. And they would allow us to cherish our dandelions along with our children’s future. The alternative consists of placing toxins in our homes that the European Union has found solid science to ban. All parents might want to check out this book released today:
And wouldn’t you know it–as it we had wished for it, three days after we posted this, alternet posted this with some great info on how states and municipalities are protecting homeowners from anti-environment HOA regulations:
Meanwhile, thanks for showing us how to laugh at ourselves, Bel. I can’t imagine anything healthier.