Hi everyone. I'm feeling very much in shock right now, and I'd like to bring the problem out in the open so I can heal and hopefully get some advice about how to improve the situation and move on. If some of you think I'm making more out of it than I need to, I'd like to hear that, too.
We moved into our third-floor flat a year and a half ago (third floor in US terms; second floor in Europe). I'm from the US and this is my first experience living in a building with other people, and it's taken some time to adjust to not having my own outdoor space and not being able to do things like laundry or washing the dishes whenever I feel like due to the noise. Specifically, I grew up in the country and living in a city and around so many other people has been an eye-opener, both good and bad. Sometimes I'm shocked that thousands of people in close proximity can even manage to get along, and I find it admirable that humans are good-hearted and compassionate enough that we can adjust our behavior to make life pleasant for everyone.
Now, the specifics:
The people who owned this flat before us left behind several flower pots and hanging window boxes out on the fire escape. I've never been much of a gardener so I ignored these the first year; this spring, I decided to throw out the old dirt and plant some rhododendrons, an azalea, and some strawberries. When I dug up the flower boxes I found this massive collection of huge stones. Some of them were smaller and round, so I took them inside. The others (huge and oddly shaped) I just left on the floor of the fire escape. This is a very large fire escape on my floor of the building, by the way, due to it being a connection with a part of the building that doesn't have access to the regular fire escape route. It wraps around the building very much like a porch. Due to this, we have a corner and a nook that do not block access to the fire escape; this is where I have placed my plants.
Now. The other day I was sweeping up some dirt from planting and one of the rocks rolled right off the edge of the fire escape. I thought my heart was going to stop. I quickly checked that no one had been standing in the garden underneath (no one was), and then nearly died of shock. These are not tiny stones. Had anyone been underneath where that stone landed, they surely would have been killed or at least seriously injured. I don't know how I misses the roundness and size of that stone, because I had examined each one and took inside any that were roundish or small enough to fit under the railing. At any rate, after this incident, I brought all of the stones inside.
The neighbor who lives in the garden flat is understandably pissed, and suspicious now of my little fire escape garden. I don't blame her for this at all. I'm planning to invite her up to examine the set-up and will remove anything that looks unsafe (although I've already removed anything that isn't a flower pot, all of which are extremely heavy and too big to fit through the slats in the grating). Yesterday she told me that I shouldn't have anything at all up there; that my fire escape is not a garden; that she should report me to the fire marshall.
I'm torn up with guilt and shock at having almost killed or seriously injured someone. I don't know how to recover from this. The fact that it wasn't intentional but negligence on my part -- and worse, that I thought I had removed anything that was likely to roll off in the first place -- deeply troubles me. I feel hyper-aware now that freak accidents can happen anytime. One minute you're sitting in our garden, enjoying the beautiful weather and the next second -- BAM -- your happy little life is snuffed out. And the thought of being the cause of this... I don't know how to handle it. I've apologized profusely, I've rectified the situation, I'm going to invite her up to check it out herself, but I don't know how to ever live with the knowledge that I nearly caused such a terrible, terrible thing.
Also, I feel a deep sadness and loss. I was taking so much joy in my newfound love of gardening; I felt like my life had been opened up to something healing and profound and wholesome. I also felt like I was finally creating a way for me to enjoy living in this small flat, by being able to have a little bit of outside space. Now I feel like I can't take pleasure in that anymore, that I should get rid of my plants. Less rationally, I feel betrayed by the universe for turning my beautiful garden into something unpleasant and unwanted. And I feel jealous of those who do have gardens, and like I don't deserve to have one of my own.
This entire incident is stirring up deep-seated feelings of rejection and not belonging. I've been meditating on these emotions, inviting them in and trying to give them names. But they still linger... I need perspective from others, and advice on how to learn from and move past this. I worry it might seem trivial to some, but it's deeply affecting me, and I hope you will take that into account in your replies.