Bringing people together

Our neighbor’s front yard is tiny but welcoming. Alexandria, May 2015

“Gardens and flowers have a way of bringing people together, drawing them from their homes.”Clare Ansberry

As a context for visiting with neighbors, I think gardening is second only to walking a dog. Whenever I’m out working in the yard or the flowerbeds, I always end up having friendly chats with neighbors who stroll by. And when I’m out walking, I love to greet others who are tending their lawns and gardens. We cheer each other on, swap tips and information, and commiserate about the woes of the weather, or hungry rabbits and squirrels and deer and insects, or anything else wreaking havoc with our efforts to beautify our little corner of the world. From neighbors I’ve learned about so many delightful shrubs and annuals and flowering vines, marveling at how much fun it is to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s efforts.

I think Ansberry used an apt phrase when she wrote of gardens drawing people from their homes, and in our era, we need that as never before. I can still remember the days before air conditioning, when adults would sit outside in the evening to enjoy cooler temperatures after heating up the kitchen with cooking dinner, and my neighborhood friends and I would play outdoor games until dark, or even later. For better and worse, those days are gone and I doubt they will ever return.

Now that we are ensconced in climate-controlled comfort, surrounded by abundance and our favorite furnishings, foods and fun, it’s hard to want to leave our indoor nests. We need not feel isolated when we can so easily talk, text or Skype with anyone anywhere in the world, even if we are still in our pajamas and robe. Being at home can combine the best of privacy and sociability, connecting us to each other from the safety of our separate cocoons. Weather, distance, gas prices– none of these things spoil the joy of staying home. But as much as I love spending time inside, I still think we are missing out if we never go outdoors and get to know our neighbors.

Gardening is an ideal way to meet people in a casual, unplanned setting. When we tend a flowerbed or just a single plant, we end up with much more than what we start with, even if our botanical results are less than optimal. Scientists agree that it’s therapeutic. For those who live where springtime is on its way, it’s the perfect time of year to get started. If you’re heading into autumn, remember that each season brings fresh delights (and specific tasks) that might be calling your name.

Our weather is expected to be chilly this week, but when I wrap up and work outdoors, I almost always end up peeling off my outer coat because the chores, strenuous or not, warm me up quickly. So I expect to be spending some more time outside over the next few days. I hope you enjoy a some sunny days this week or very soon. Tell us what you are planning and planting– and tell your neighbors hello for us!



  1. raynard

    Good Morning Julia. Just came back from the Philadelphia Flower Show yesterday. It did bring people together. We brought two younger couples from our church who never attended. Got back before late and even too my wife to dinner at Chik Filet.Waiting for the next” Nor Easter tomorrow. Is it just me or I think” the groundhog is hold up somewhere “eating Girl Scout Cookies and” leftover Valentine’s Candy. I digress. Trying to decide if I’m going to bake two cakes for our small groups this month. A coffee cake and a ” Cinnamon toast Crunch cake , yes with the cereal.”The Shadow knows…

    • Raynard, I’m so glad you took some friends to the flower show. It always amazes me how short a time it seems between when they roll around again each year, and yet still I have never been. Maybe one day, though. Yes, the groundhog is most certainly down in his hidey-hole with those Girl Scout Cookies. Maybe you can lure him out with the leftovers of your cake– AS IF there would ever be any! Coffee cake sounds wonderful and I’m quite intrigued by the idea of a Cinnamon Toast Crunch cake, though I’ve never tasted the cereal. I don’t think I’ve ever had a crunchy cake, unless you count something with walnuts or pecans. I never tasted anything with cinnamon that I didn’t like, though. One of my favorite things to eat when I was a kid was hot buttered toast with cinnamon sugar sprinkled heavily on. That’s about the closest I got to a cinnamon roll in those years, but maybe I should make some with double fiber whole grain toast, and then I could try to convince myself that it was healthier, hee-hee.

      • I would just like to point out that you don’t need to add much sugar to the cinnamon, when you make your own.
        😉 Just enough to help it “sprinkle” properly. It will be delicious on double fiber whole grain toast!

        • Susan, great point. In fact, it may be similar to what I discovered with cocoa powder. I now put it on ice cream without adding ANY sugar to it (the ice cream is quite enough sweet for all of it together). I might try some buttered cinnamon toast with no sugar at all, especially since cinnamon is naturally sweet. As you say, it might not “sprinkle” as well without the sugar, but I wonder whether it could be mixed into the butter before spreading?

          • Ooooohhh! I suspect it could! Let me know if you discover a technique to avoid its natural tendency to clump. 🙂

            • I have decided to try it today, at lunch. As I write this, I have the butter set out to soften. I’ll let you know how it goes! 🙂

  2. Sheila

    Good Sunday morning, Julia. ☕️ Congratulations on your 300,000 plus mark here at Defeat Despair. So many of those visits have been mine and I’ve enjoyed each of them. Thank you for the time you’ve given here, your beautifully written views, and the inspiration that you are. 🌷 Mrs. Vann had a needlework that I loved. “The road to a friend’s house is never long.” 💛Smiles crossing the distance. Love, Sheila

    • Sheila, thank you so much. You have been among my most faithful friends and readers for a long time now, and I feel so blessed to have you here! Yes, I too love that quote. Sadly I often wonder if it’s really true, as nobody seems to have time to visit with friends in person much anymore. Even when we get together, it’s often on the go, at a restaurant someplace instead of in each other’s homes. But it’s so wonderful when we make it happen, that it’s something to strive for! A friend of mine who lives in a distant state is coming to see me next month– we were trying to figure out how long it had been since one of us came to see the other (we have not lived near each other since 1999, but have made several trips to see each other) and we were shocked to realize it had been ten years since we were last together in person! Wow. Life keeps us all too busy nowadays. Thank goodness that Virtual Verandah is there day and night, rain or shine, 24/7! Love, J

  3. I’m so happy we have connected. ♥

    • Yes, so am I! When I hear the words “shine on” I always think of you! 🙂 ❤

  4. MaryAnn Clontz

    What an uplifting post! Great idea to greet each other’s neighbors. Jesus teaches us to “love our neighbor”, and now as you so aptly expressed: we have virtual neighbors to love & share our lives! I am planning to buy some plants that keep away mosquitoes, some that have an abundant supply of oxygen & some like a “neighbor” several blocks away. Each spring, as we drive to worship, we see these wonderful colors exploding! They come back on their own (I say “God taught them how”), so I can enjoy them over & over again!
    Much love to you & “my” Matt!

    • Mary Ann, I like to think of God “speaking” to all creation, keeping the seasons turning and the animals and plants thriving. If only people could listen as well as nature does, to divine instructions! I used to ask Pasha whether God talked to him, but he was noncommittal about replying. 🙂 Matt and I send you our continuing love & prayers!

  5. Harry Sims

    I tagged along on my Jammie’s skirt tail as she tended her flower garden, vegetable garden and the garden of our souls in the mid-30s when I was just a shave-tail tyke.

    God’s Garden
    THE Lord God planted a garden
    In the first white days of the world,
    And He set there an angel warden
    In a garment of light enfurled.
    So near to the peace of Heaven,
    That the hawk might nest with the wren,
    For there in the cool of the even
    God walked with the first of men.
    And I dream that these garden-closes
    With their shade and their sun-flecked sod
    And their lilies and bowers of roses,
    Were laid by the hand of God.
    The kiss of the sun for pardon,
    The song of the birds for mirth,–
    One is nearer God’s heart in a garden
    Than anywhere else on earth.
    For He broke it for us in a garden
    Under the olive-trees
    Where the angel of strength was the warden
    And the soul of the world found ease.

    Dorothy Frances Gurney

    • Harry, thanks for sharing this beautiful poem. I had heard parts of it before, but I don’t think I had ever seen the whole thing in one place. I appreciate your taking the time to type it out so we can enjoy it. How lucky the very young Harry was, to have a Jammie who recognized what matters.

      • Harry Sims

        I’m not much of a typist but I’m quite a whiz at copying and pasting.
        Thank you Julia.

        • That works too. 😀

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