This phrase has taken on so much more meaning in the past 16 months. At first we all thought we’d be locked down for a few weeks then things would get back to normal or would die back…but no and working from home, ordering groceries in or venturing out early in the morning to shop in ‘seniors & compromised health’ grocery store hours. Mask making became a new ‘thing’ as did only greeting by demonstrating a ‘hug’ from 6′ away.
As we in chilly Canada came into Spring and could spend time outdoors masked and at a distance I took great advantage of my bistro set on my front porch, working on my computer, drinking coffee or reading, where I could say hi as my friends and neighbours wandered past on our street. When I came to Canada in 1966 I was fascinated with front porches and really wanted to sit on one…well, that wish came true decades later…who knew…and who knew so precious?
I ordered some yarn from a neighbour who dyes her ‘Happycat Yarns’ and she walked it round to my front porch where we got to sit and chat about wool and knitting.
I have had quite a few get together’s with friends on our porch, it’s shady when it’s really hot and we can sit at either end in our Muskoka chairs and be safe and comfy. However, one of the things that makes this work is the ‘village’ in which we live. Portsmouth Village is a part of Kingston that became amalgamated with Kingston in 1952 but was established in 1784. Being on Lake Ontario the harbour was full of boat building and little shacks, then shipping in supplies for the newly built Kingston Penitentiary (1836). The village housed workers at the prison, boat builders, and workers at the also nearby Rockwood Asylum (as it was called), there was also the brewery and tannery, so there are lots of little and old houses of both wood and limestone. Built close to the street, hardly set back at all, it leaves our 21st century residents close and visible to each other. Anyone who wants not to be overlooked or hear their neighbour’s music, summer laughter or tv in the Summer when the windows are open will be out of luck. But…anyone, who, over the past months, would like to say hi to another human, maybe pass the time of day with a quick chat (or a long one), it’s perfect.
A group of four senior women have gathered to roam the village streets every afternoon, my husband has called us the ‘raging grannies’ or just regular wanderers! We have been neighbours for years but have become firm friends. There have been illnesses, deaths, loneliness, boredom, distance from families and friends with only Zoom or FaceTime visits but you will see us wandering down to the harbour deep in conversation or laughing at a situation or joke. Even though I have a partner in my house I treasure this little group that tries to keep each other (and neighbours) going.
There is a walking tour of this area with a lot of history and at one stop writer and local historian Jennifer Mckendry asks us to imagine the sounds from 150+ ago with the sounds of horses hooves, carriage wheels, pigs, chickens and the chatter of neighbours as they go about their days. I can really imagine it now with some of the things that have gone on recently. A neighbour decided to pull down a chain link fence which was put up by a previous owner who had little ones and didn’t want them wandering away, especially into the natural pond at the bottom of the garden (remains of the old stream). I mentioned it to a neighbour who immediately said she’d buy it. She knocked on the right door and the deal was done…a bunch of us carried the rolled up fencing around to her house later.
We’ve done a lot of gardening and on our ‘walks’ complained about aching backs from a day on our knees or bent double…not easy in your 7th decade!
Getting new window boxes from Lee Valley Tools I finally bid my long, old, rustic, heavy, wooden window boxes goodbye. I mentioned it to one neighbour…she had a use for them so I dollied them around to her house where they would find a new home. Another day I moaned about one of the local bunnies eating the leaves of a bean plant I was trying to grow, that same neighbour left a roll of chicken wire in my garden the next day! Doing a clear out this neighbour texted me to see if I had seen the surprise she left on my steps…it was a lovely box which she said was a Bento box which one of her Asian students had brought back for her years ago. First I said it’d make a lunch box for when I was doing shows again…but the…no…it’s going to hold needles and embroidery cottons for my stitching!
We have shared plants (my Milkweed seeds didn’t grow so I got two plants from my neighbour), and I dug up some of my evening primrose and took it to her garden. We’ve held book club groups (no bigger than 6) in one or two gardens, we’ve shared food (baking, soup). Three local musicians have played a driveway ‘gig’…and will do it again in our warm Summer weather while we can see and chat to each other, thought apart, vaccinated and face to face.