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Breaking silence

2 weeks ago, my garden was full and radiant - all the fruit trees along
the back wall were heavy with ripening treasures, the tall cedars beside
them formed a stately row blocking from view my neighbour's ugly cement
facade, the last of the fall daisies and marigolds were bright with
blooms, the grasses were shifting to shades of red and gold along with
the little japanese maples I hauled in from an abandoned greenhouse last
year on my back, and the big tree in the middle was covered with golden

1 week ago I returned from a trip to the city to find that the
neighbours with the ugly cement facade had topped all those cedars at
the level of their balcony, even though there is not a single window in
that part of the house.  About 15 feet gone from each one.  And the
fruit trees...new ground cover for my two resident toads to escape the
stalking presence of the same neighbours half-grown kittens.  For that,
no explanation imaginable.  

Yesterday I returned from another trip to the city to find that the big
tree in the middle had suddenly dropped all its leaves, every one,
leaving my view of that neighbour's home painfully clear.  The flowers
have finished up.  Even the weeds have settled back towards the earth
for another season.  Fall edges towards winter.  What can you do?

In the other house that borders mine lives an old farming couple.  I
know them only as 'halabudgi' and 'halmoni' -grandfather and grandmother
respectively.  They spend most of every day outside, tending the small
fields that border my garden on the remaining 2 sides and stretch
through the little ravine that my house overlooks and up the hillsides
around it.  They were here long before this area was city, and haven't
changed their routine much since it sprung up around them.  Halmoni is a
smiling, determined old woman who doesn't say much and minds her own
business.  Halabudgi likes to lean on my wall and offer a running
commentary on the exotic and often shameful activities of its

Though always helpful, my relationship with these elderly neighbours
goes through cycles.  For a while we will all get along splendidly,
chatting over the wall and smiling and being neighbourly, then for no
discernible reason (or sometimes for a very discernible reason!)
everything will shift and I will be persona non grata for a while. 
Before I left for Canada there'd be quite a long stint of the latter,
but since my return things have returned to an even, friendly keel.

When I saw my butchered trees I literally cried.  Halabudgi, lingering
nearby, came in to tell me who'd done it.  Seems he saw them at it, gave
them hell over the wall for having the temerity to climb in (I have a
locked gate at the entrance to the garden) and cut down, but couldn't
stop it.  I've never seen him so angry before.  Knowing that I have
essentially no recourse in this matter myself (I am strongly resisting
the urge to pile all the discarded branches in their pretty - and tiny -
front garden...more strongly resisting the urge to then set the whole
lot on fire), he has taken it upon himself to single-handedly show me
how good locals can be.  Every couple of days he appears with a quiet
offering from their farm - one day a small pumpkin, another day a plate
of freshly steamed yams, a third day a cutting from the cherry tree in
their yard to replace the one the other neighbours cut down.  In 2 years
of living here I have never met those other neighbours.  But considering
the breakthrough in my relations with the old man that I have seen
nearly every day of that 2 years, I almost don't mind their appalling
vandalism.  Almost.

You win some and you lose some - everything eventually re-grows, even
relations with difficult neighbours.  Especially relations with
difficult neighbours!

In the material sense, it's been a difficult fall for my house and its
occupants.  I returned from my two happy months back in Canada to find
that my house/pet-sitter was a negligent ass who made a fair attempt
(hopefully not on purpose) of destroying the whole lot - we're talking
fridge full of food that had stopped working 6 weeks before my return
but never, in all that summer heat, been emptied of its contents, linens
in mouldering piles in the shed, things missing, dishes broken, pets
un-fed destroyed.  I cried then too.

Most of the damage was relatively easy to fix, time consuming and a
little expensive but otherwise untraumatic - but sweet MoShui (my much
loved bunny, for those of you out of the loop) has been a tougher mend. 
Spunky, resilient little creature that she is, she is holding her own
with panache - but trips to the vet in Seoul (the nearest one who has
any experience with rabbits) are not finished yet.  2 surgeries so far
to remove an abscess on her jaw have gone very well, with one more
coming up in the next couple of weeks.  The extent to which this is a
result of her abuse this summer is unclear, but it can't have been
helpful.  Hopefully that will be the end of it - happy, cured, healthy
bunny mere weeks away!  Until then, getting much better at manouevering
around those impressive front teeth to administer her antibiotics twice
a day!

The fish too have had a tough go.  Just a few days after I returned, my
big aquarium in the house sprung a leak while I was at work and flooded
the living room.  Luckily the fish survived the ordeal - and their
subsequent stay in a borrowed kimchi tub - and are thriving in their new
environment (a beautiful tank borrowed semi-permanently from wonderful
Korean friends down the road).  Aigo!  When it rains it pours!!

But all of this fails to communicate the wonder that this fall has been
- really!!  Despite all the stupidity, accidents and trauma, I am having
the best fall of my life!!  Work is fantastic (as usual, what a great
bunch of students - they teach me so much!!), the city is beautiful, I
just successfully harvested my very first crop of sweet potatoes, my old
neighbours like me again, and I have had many, many, many delightful
hours to spend with a great friend who has recently moved back to the
country.  Life is GOOD!!! 

I hope life wherever you are is GOOD as well!!  I've been much too
silent the last couple of months, undoubtedly accounting for why even
though I think of each of you often I suddenly realize that I have no
idea what is up with nearly all of you...hoping that will soon change!! 
Whatever your own traumas and joys have been over the last couple of
months, I hope you are still smiling...and look forward to hearing about
it soon!!  Love, Roberta