Thursday, my hedges came down.
I could feel the panic rising in my chest starting Wednesday evening, when I found out the tree guys were coming the next day to cut down two rows of the massive cedar hedges that have shielded me from the road – and the world that travels along it — for the four years I’ve been in my house.
I’ve known for a while that they needed to go: they’ve been mostly ignored for far more years than I’ve owned this place. They were unwieldy, ugly, overgrown and unhealthy – useless as sound barrier and incomplete as screen. They cut me off from my neighbors and impeded the view at the stop sign on the opposite corner. But as soon as I made the decision to get rid of them – a full year ago – I knew that this was about more than sight lines.
The hedges were a living metaphor for the emotional walls I’ve built and maintained for most of my life. Walls that kept me safe, to be sure, but also hidden, separated from the life I watched passing me by. All day Thursday, I tried to suppress a quiet terror that I would get home and, without the comforting shelter of the cedars, feel totally, emotionally exposed. I also knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I was doing the right thing: those trees represented my old life, barely hanging on and making its last stand.
The barriers we erect keep out pain and judgment, prying eyes and probing questions. They also turn away trust and friendship, love and connection. The hedges were entwined with so many decisions I’ve made in my life that have kept the real me hidden from all but my closest friends.
Cutting down the hedges is my coming out moment, but it’s about the core of my being, not my sexuality. Here I am, world, with every flaw exposed, every fault magnified, for you to judge. My daily habits and the weeds in my lawn and choice of deck furniture out there in front, for all to see.
It’s already starting to be OK, though, and as my new landscaping takes shape along with my new life, it will soon be far better. This was a step I had to take to reclaim myself, but it’s felt like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. “Wow!” Michele texted when I sent her a photo of the wide open view from my front door. “That’s like getting a Brazilian wax – all gone!!!” Still, by Friday evening, I found that much of the vulnerability had receded, as I tended my garden, washed winter’s dirt off the side of my house, and joined the human, home-owning race.
Instead of a wall of cedars, flowering trees and ornamental grasses and perennials will soften and grace a small fence with an arbor and a wood partition at the edge of the deck, offering some privacy. And amidst it all, a gate will open to a new walkway that leads to my front door, offering a more direct way in.