A Lost Paradise
We bought this house, my wife and I,
because we loved our next door neighbor:
the local school, the loveliest in all the world!
The building itself with slanting roof
and misplaced gable, held a certain charm,
but it was the grounds that held us spellbound:
Towering trees that raised their branches to heaven;
long, sweet grass with scents of spring, and blossoms of
red and purple frolicking in the wake of every passing breeze.
Exotic birds of paradise, mingled with doves and sparrows,
called to their mates with sweet twitterings of sibilant chatter
that never ceased from a carpet of dawn to a bedspread of dusk.
And it was ours! Ours to share at any time of day or night,
for a long-established pedestrian laneway that never closed,
ran into the school between our home and a house-next-door.
But times change! The first sign of trouble ahead came in a letter
from the new headmaster, seeking our support to petition council
to close the lane. To their everlasting credit, residents in the street
opposite (who used this shortcut to frequent friends in another road
behind the school) created such a collective howl of protests, council
negated the idea in an instant. Council elections were coming up. This
was no time for controversy. Council wrote the headmaster a nice long-
winded letter that in effect said, “No! Not in a million years! It was right
against council policy to alienate public laneways or close rights of way.”
A victory for Paradise! The gates were wide open. Birds continued their
praises, and weary residents could trudge home from work and stores
while resting minds and invigorating spirits in the grounds of Eden.
It didn’t last of course! A more enlightened headmaster got police
onside by pointing out the dangers of traffic to young limbs at a
blind spot on the corner. The police suggested the laneway
be locked and only opened at starting and finishing times when
children could be supervised. And so gates were installed
and padlocked, and only opened for a mere half-hour,
morning and afternoon. Within six months our precious right of way
was locked and barred forever. But if Paradise was closed, we could
still enjoy the view, take photos of our favorite trees against the sky.
“Not any more, you can’t!” said a minion of the law the other day.
“Since when?” I asked. “You never could! Taking photos at a
school is illegal.” “Since when do God’s trees belong to the
school, His clouds and skies, His birds and insects, His
grass and flowers? If we are not permitted to cherish His
gifts, we would not have bought a house next door at all!”