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Today I spent the morning raking vines of jasmine off the neighbor’s roof. A few years ago when we redid the garden, we planted four or five little plants against the wall under wooden lattice. The brick, cement, and tile mess of a wall underneath wasn’t wonderful to look at, so we thought to bring some more green over would make it cozier. I had to twist tie the first tiny branches onto the base of the wood because they weren’t tall enough to climb themselves yet. A few years later, those tiny plants grew into monsters. Up and over the top of the lattice they went in the first year, and wound into the straw awnings we had placed at the top, and they still grew, cascading back off the awnings and down into the garden in a green wave we never ever expected would swell from what we planted.

While Rami and I were out the other morning, Rami’s brother stayed here with Luna and had the opportunity to field the visit from the neighbor beyond the wall, who hadn’t lived over on the other side of our garden, but was now selling the house, and realized that the little outside area was completely immersed in a cave of jasmine. The little florentine was absolutely wonderful, and not angry in the slightest, but certainly couldn’t move it herself, and had come over to ask if we could just cut it back. I spoke to her on the phone later that evening and she recounted the polite request and giggled at my Italian.

So there I was today – a ladder embedded in the dirt in the corner of our garden, maneuvering my body up the rungs and through the awnings and branches of jasmine, to see where these crazy plants had grappled onto beyond the constraints of our garden. I stood on the part of the ladder you’re not supposed to stand on and leaned up against the narrow brick wall that separates our yard from the tiny courtyards behind the adjacent building, and sure enough, one little space I didn’t even know existed was completely blanketed over with a bed of green leaves. And then, to my horror, I looked down the alley to see the vines stretching down almost to the end of the block – clinging to fencing and old satellite dishes and climbing up the cables on the building across the way.

I started cutting to the sound of people in their kitchens on a Saturday afternoon. The smell of an incredible soup wafted by me. The sound of two women arguing echoed down the alley. A dog barked in the yard behind ours. Silverware scraped on plates as one family had a late lunch. None of our other neighbors had said anything about the invading plants, and I almost felt bad cutting it all away if it was a pleasant sight as they hung out their laundry or replaced the view of their neighbors with little white flowers on a wall of free greenery. But the little old lady needed to sell her house, so away I snipped, grabbing the branches and pulling them back down into our garden. By the time I had finished, I was surrounded in a nest of jasmine and had to kick it aside to find the ladder and the ground.

I’m hoping my vine removal suits the standards the woman expected and can take care of the leaves that fell into the little courtyard because I couldn’t get those unless I trespassed a lot, and I already felt a bit weird sitting on a wall, eye level with my neighbor’s windows and above their backdoors, wildly wrestling greenery. I’ll wait to see if we get another call. Until then my fight is over, hopefully for the winter, when the vines start to slow down. Then in the spring, we’ll begin the battle again. Hopefully, with more success this time, though this summer it did finally cling on to the pine tree and wove its way through the needles. By next year we may have a jasmine tree instead. Though Rami and I decided that wouldn’t be too bad, and then it maybe would stay away from the neighbors.


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