(May 11, 2024 / Photo: Jorge Ibanez)

Robert Frost famously said that good fences make good neighbors. Which some may think is at the core of good New England Yanki philosophy of life, but with which it seems he did not agree. But, of course, he was picking up much more than boulders in that poem. He also told us of ‘the road not taken’ and of ‘miles to go before I go’. Growing up in Puerto Rico, this young island punk’s favorite poet was this Yanki poet from the moment I discovered him. And now I think, I was also enthralled with Emily Dickinson (a fellow New Englander) and got myself lost even in her shortest of poems. And a bit later there was Glen Campbell’s lonesome cowboy poem ‘Wichita Lineman’. And the warm summer lemon breeze would blow through my open bedroom windows intimacies of unknown open distances arrived to in unconventional conveyances. And looking out the window I felt the exciting uncertainty of the as yet undeciphered calling, the hunger from my little corner of the island for the road ahead that I was already getting the inkling was going to be challenging, unconventional, and excitingly scary as hell.

I have been fortunate (very!) that in no large part by my own making (and sometimes I think that actually in spite of…) I have found myself in the midst of a great community that, if respected, has made that travel possible. Beginning from an exceptional extended family that took me in faults and all, to interesting deep artistic brothers (this understood in the most encompassing way) that nourish and spur our mutual esthetic curiosities and all the way to a sprawling dynamic cultural ‘tribe’ miles around. And an exploring partner that is the epitome of the reluctant explorer: all the while denying it, she has always been good for a good dare. You just have to explain to her that there is a good chance you may even land on your feet. The funniest thing…

But I save and defend a space and the right to always recognize the intrinsic aloneness of the human experience. Not loneliness. Loneliness has an emotional judgement attached to it. It is rather the fact that we are all pods moving into uncertain terrains, sometimes in groups (that form, may break up and re-form in different configurations and then again…), sometimes by our very own selves. But at the end of the day, sanity will be preserved by the knowledge that it is you, accomplishing your own human destiny. And that you have been careful to preserve and defend that space in the center of your soul where you can retire and no one can go with you, take a breather, marvel at the silence within and without you and the powerful reality out there, where you know you will have to go back. Alone is good, lonely is not. That is Edward Hopper’s beautiful success…

And then you go out and you are able to marvel at your great neighbors, which you should take a moment to acknowledge, enjoy, celebrate with and without them. My little corner of the Duck Pond neighborhood has been bedecked with the most interesting combination of denizens, from, among others, a young couple to one side (with a little toddler girl, Jane, that Wanda has taken to call Baby Jane, which greets me at her door every week to see what new sweet bread I am bringing her), two locally renowned painters and, until recently, a retired San Francisco graphic designer with an amazing LPs collection kitty corner from us. And, to my right, what is probably the best ceramist in our fair city. And this guy I specially appreciate, for a very good reason to Wanda and me.

I have seen some of Steve’s work and his artistry with colors and glazes always amazes me. He makes the most beautiful bowls and plates. But lately, he told me, he stopped making utilitarian ceramic and is working only abstract (and very expensive…) pieces of art. Gorgeous work. And then, he makes time to work his garden. And I mean ‘work’ his garden. He gets deep into his little plot and he is a sight sweating it out, dirty from head to toe (actually reminds me of Wanda working our backyard, now that I think of it…) and practically pulling from the ground the most beautiful combination of seasonal flowering plants through the year. And fearlessly: After cultivating a great rose garden for years, he pulled it all out and embraced the notion of a wild flower garden and it has never been better. And he offers to the rest of our neighborhood this oasis of natural beauty, this sweet breathing space. He allowed our wedelia to cross over (no good neighbor fences here) and invade his plot and mix up with a crazy combination of wild flowers palette that sprouts and blooms in a controlled chaos. Zen at its core. And then he can retire to his studio and work on what is one of the oldest artistic expressions of humankind taken to its most chaotic elaboration. And leaves his spontaneous vegetation masterpiece for us to walk by and ‘ooh-ahh’ at.

From the moment he moved in years ago, he has greeted me on passing with a ‘Hi, neighbor!’ Always made me think of Frost. Everything comes around. I like that he is my neighbor.

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