I was out there emptying the trash. And, to be honest, I was trying to not think about the red.
"Well ... " I started, gauging how much to temper my response without tapping into my temper. "It sucks."
Turns out I wasn't able to temper my response much. But the fact was, I was still seeing red.
See, over the course of the past spring and summer, our immediate neighbors on our south side in our downtown mountain-town neighborhood remodeled and expanded their old, small, bungalow-style house. They enlarged the building considerably out the back, parallel to our house, and they added a second floor.
They deserved it. Their old house was small and old, and as their two kids approached their teenage years, they needed the space. We didn't have a problem with that -- we had done the same thing to our old 19th century Victorian, years before these neighbors even moved into our neighborhood.
Before they started their project, our neighbors were inclusive and concerned about it. They had us over and showed us the plans, apologizing for both the short-term annoyance and the long-term altering of our views. We'd been friends since before they moved in, so they wanted, it seemed, to allay our concerns about such a big undertaking sure to have such a big impact our daily lives.
We appreciated their apparent concern for the impacts on us. And impacts it had. The daytime hours of this past spring and summer were consumed by machinery and power tools, building crews and subcontractors, and the general cacophony and unsightliness associated with any construction site.
But we were okay with enduring that for our endearing neighbors.
My limit of endurance, though, was breached the last Monday in August. On that day (my wife's birthday) we got home from a lovely excursion in our nearby mountains with our son, who was in from out of town for the weekend. I'll always remember it, though, as the day we first caught sight of the final phase of creation our neighbors were to inflict on us with their new abode.
Our son stepped out of our car and just busted out laughing.
"That's hideous!" he said, laughing again.
He was probably laughing because he knew he'd be leaving the next day. I, however, was not leaving. And I was not laughing.
This shade of red adorning this huge new structure was (and still is) a bright, brilliant red, like found only on fire trucks, in fresh blood, and coating Kentucky Fried Chickens. In a building supply store, this paint would be located just one aisle over from flashing neon lights.
And I knew immediately, with my blood-red heart sinking and my temper rising, that we'd be living with this red as the backdrop for our lives for the foreseeable future. We'll be living with it alongside our front porch, overhanging our back yard, and right outside every one of our south-facing windows -- including our second-floor master bedroom, where the great glowing mass of red blazes only 15 feet away, the first thing we see every morning and the last thing every night.
In fact, I realized, we'd be living with the red monstrosity even more than our colorful neighbors themselves. They won't be able to see it from inside their own house, where all they'll see are views over the softer, subtler hues of the rest of the houses in our neighborhood. Or the rest of the world, for that matter, outside the Kremlin and the Gates of Hell.
Extreme metaphors, I know. But that's how I felt about the red at first, like on that day our neighbor from across the alley inquired about my thoughts on the new color in our shared landscape. I was seeing red, and it wasn't pretty. In fact, it sucked.
I'll admit, though, that over the few weeks since the initial shock of the arrival of this residential red tide in our lives, this experience has become an interesting personal journey for me. I found there are lessons both personal and communal to be gleaned from this experience.
In regards to community, I have come to see that, as the sarcastic saying goes, there's no accounting for taste. Yet I acknowledge freely and without grudge that my neighbors -- the red ones, as well as those employing other questionable tones for their homes here and there in our little town -- have a right to decorate (or desecrate) their dwelling as they choose.
There's no use being mad if I believe in that. And I do. So I'm not mad.
But I am sad. Because I also now realize that on the interpersonal level, even if you have the right to do something, there still needs to be -- for both communities to work and for neighbors to be neighborly -- a balance of that right with responsibility, respect, consideration, and concern for those others who share your immediate space and who also have to live with your freely- and rightfully-made choices.
And so the issue here isn't the choice of color as much as it is the lack of caring about the impact of that on the nearby lives. Like those right over the fence next door.
Regardless, the reality is, we will move on. I don't foresee any cocktails or barbeques or even over-the-fence chats about the plight of the Rockies with our next-door neighbors anytime in the near future. But, perhaps, moving beyond that to something more than a neutral neighborliness again will be my next challenge. So maybe there is a personal silver lining to this crimson cloud that now looms over our humble-colored home (an earthy brown with white trim). Life is nothing if not challenges, and from them we grow.
But the reality is ... it still sucks. And it will until someday some less painful pigment at last coats the southern view of our life. Even if I do learn to live with seeing red.