Looking for hope (part 10)

Last week, I challenged all of you to answer 10 questions about your neighbourhood and promised to share my answers with you. Without a doubt, I was able to answer more questions, and in greater detail, than I could have before the pandemic kept me at home for 14 months. While those months have felt very long at times – and I am still itching to get back on the road — I have to admit that it feels good to have become a resident rather than a tourist in my own neighbourhood.

Here’s some of what I now know about where I live.

Being neighbourly – or not

  1. What are the names of your immediate neighbours (next door and over the fence)?

I know the names of five neighbours — Jamie, Lin, John, Kelly, Dave – whose three houses adjoin our house and yard. But, with the exception of the folks over the back fence, my familiarity with them extends no farther than knowing their names.

2. Have you had a conversation longer than five minutes with a neighbour in the past three months?

No. I say hi to plenty of people when I am out for my daily walks, but that’s about as far as it goes. However, to remedy this situation, on Sunday, we are having cocktails in our backyard with our over-the-fence neighbours.

What’s nearby?

3. Where is the closest tiny library to your house?

Not only do we have a branch of the public library a 10-minute walk from our house, there are tiny libraries galore in our neighbourhood, with the closest one just a few steps away, right around the corner.

4. Are there any clubs or organizations in your neighbourhood?

Yes. The Kingston Lawn Bowling Club is just a few blocks away. It has been closed since the pandemic began and, since I only began my neighbourhood walks during that time, I have yet to see the place in action.

My partner and some friends plan to join whenever it reopens; I plan to cheer them on from the sidelines, cocktail in hand, if I can just figure out the rules of the game.

Getting around

5. If you walk in your neighbourhood, do you always take the same route or do you mix it up?

I almost never take the same route twice. I have routes to suit my mood and need: some when I need to go to the grocery story, others for days I want to check out my favourite gardens, others when I need to drop books into the return chute at the public library and still others when I just need to walk purposefully and without distraction for 45 minutes.

6. Is there any street art in your ‘hood?

Lots, from short-lived chalk creations to others that are downright professional.

7. Do you know the story behind the name of the street you live on?

No.

Parks, parks and more parks

8. Do you ever visit a park or other green space in your neighbourhood?

There are four large parks within a few blocks of our house, each offering something different.

Closest is Compton Park, just one block away, which has a couple of picnic tables, basketball and tennis courts and playground equipment.

Churchill Park, a couple of blocks farther, is filled with flower beds and park benches so walkers can take a break and soak in the colours. Next to the park is a small playground and, next to that, a beautiful community garden.

A few more blocks takes me to Victoria Park. In the spring and summer it boasts a tennis court, baseball diamond, basketball hoop, playground equipment and a small human-built stream complete with a little bridge. There are lots of trees, benches and a couple of picnic tables. In the winter, most of the open space is taken up with skating rinks.

One of my favourite spots in Kingston is Elder Park and the circle of houses surrounding it. The park itself – at just under one acre — is the smallest of those on my list, but it has everything a park needs: trees, open space and a playground.

My family spent a summer living in Kingston when I was a kid, and we lived on the circle around this park. I have very fond memories of hanging out on the swings and playing tag with a passel of other kids every day until our mothers called us in when it got dark.

Every time my walking route takes me to Elder Park – which is often – I imagine how wonderful it would be to turn that circle of houses into some kind of co-housing arrangement, where everyone knew everyone else, part of the park became a community garden, residents managed the neighbourhood together and gathered regularly for summer cocktails and winter potluck dinners.

Back to the neighbours

9. Do you know which houses on your block have dogs living in them?

I certainly know which close-by house has just acquired a dog that spends too much of its day outside barking loudly.

More pleasant animal neighbours are the chickens on the other side of the fence, who announce each newly laid egg with a triumphant cry and then settle to quiet roosting for the rest of the day.

10. How many kids (under 15 years old) live on your block?

I don’t know.

What’s next?

My partner and I will be getting our second vaccine dose in just over a week and, coupled with the anticipated roll-out of phase one of the province’s re-opening plan, I am beginning to feel as though I might be able to reclaim parts of my old life. We have tentative plans to travel to Yukon in September, where I will reactivate my ongoing work there, on hold since January of last year. I have set a fall date to return to northern Ontario to pick up work I’ve been doing with a shelter there. Before that, we’ll be heading to the shores of Lake Huron to visit family and, if the provincial borders reopen in time, we’re going to Wakefield, Quebec, where we have rented a house close to friends we have not seen for a year.

Best of all, sometime before the end of the summer, I hope to have a backyard party: our first social gathering of more than four people in 18 months.

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