There have been a few changes in my neighbourhood over the past few months. Our immediate neighbours on, both sides, are new. On one side, the original owners moved out after nearly 40 years and a young family moved in, bringing with them all the energy and vitality that a 3-year-old little boy exudes! On the other side, a later middle-aged woman and her big, fluffy dog have joined our street.
As is often the case with new owners, there has been a flurry of activity on both sides as carpets have been replaced, walls painted, driveways resurfaced and fences rebuilt. I’ve had conversations with them both about how they are making their new homes their own. It’s been a lot of work but both households are loving the neighbourhood and are genuinely excited about the new chapters they are beginning.
On one occasion recently, I went next door to chat about extensive vines that run along our common property line that, while beautiful and green all year round, are extremely pervasive and choke out anything else that attempts to grow in their path. I expected to be about 10 minutes and ended up coming home about 45 minutes later. Our conversation ended up being about far more than the vines!
It turns out that our new neighbour had been saving up for years and years to live in the community. This is her dream come true. To say she is delighted would be an understatement! However, her story has not been one of smooth sailing. I learned that she is a published historical fiction writer. She is currently working on another novel and it was fascinating to listen to where she gets the inspiration for her plots. It was clear that many of the twists and turns in her writing are born out of her own life experiences. I think it would be safe to say that she has probably seen and experienced a lot of heartache in her life. She told me that she is a very private person and mainly keeps to herself. And yet, my experience was of someone who, despite everything that has come her way, is extremely strong and resilient while being deeply connected to people’s stories. Her friends are very important to her, she takes nothing for granted and is so grateful for the life she is living.
There were many points in our conversation that I could have excused myself and gone back to whatever important work was waiting for me. But I didn’t. And I’m so glad. The houses on my street are built with a “reverse floor plan”. That means that most of the living is done at the back of the house, completely disconnected and oblivious to what’s going on out front. Because of this, we seldom see our neighbours unless we happen to be coming or going at exactly the same time. Because I took the time to simply be present and listen to my new neighbour’s story, we now greet each other with enthusiastic waves. I pay more attention to whether or not her car is in the driveway and I wonder if she’s okay if I don’t see her car move for a while. She does keep to herself but we do know each other a little bit now and that’s a start. I have no idea how our relationship will develop but I do believe that the Spirit has sown some seeds.