Noticing the Neighbors


Neighbors these days are rarely known to each other, besides the occasional, “Hey, your yard looks nice,” holler from across the street when you both happen to be outside on a nice day. Or I had a neighbor once who’d stop by and ask if I had any leftovers. You know, the usual. Maybe you’re one of the lucky few who have lived in your neighborhood/town enough years to have made several lasting connections with the people that live around you. That’s awesome. One day I hope to settle down and live somewhere forever and get to know the people around me. I don’t plan on living in the place I am now for the rest of my life, so I haven’t made much effort – make that any effort at all – in getting to know my neighbors. But I have accidentally, sort of just coincidentally begun collecting information about all of the people who live close to me. I have recorded this data on a regular basis over the last three months on days that the weather is nice enough to go for a walk. Walking is a great way to get to know an area, and in my case it has been an interesting way to indirectly find out about my neighbors by way of noticing.

First of all you should know that I’m a regular walker. I’ve been walking ever since I can remember, because the memory part of children’s brains doesn’t develop until age 3 or after, which included my brain. Besides the usual indoors walking, I also walk outdoors. This data I’m about to present to you was collected over the course of probably 30 or 40 walks in my neighborhood. You can trust me, this is one subject I am completely competent in writing about. You might even say I am an expert in walking. There sure aren’t many things I am an expert in (yet), but this is one I’ve got down.

So on with the list. Here are the top 5 most interesting things I’ve noticed about my neighborhood at individual times over the course of many walks.

  1. I know where the cats live. There are two homes that keep their garage doors open a crack for the kitties to prowl around outdoors. I’ve seen the cats prowling through the grass, like they’re on safari, yellow eyes glinting in the dusk… Okay, maybe they’re not that wild. But one cat did crouch down like it was waiting to pounce on me as I walked by once. I held my breath ’til I passed, but when it didn’t attack me I realized that the cats are my neighbors too, just a lot fluffier and with a more acute urge to hunt their prey. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Thy… fluffier self.
  2. The streetlights here are cute. They’re more Chronicles of Narnia-ish than I realized in all the times I’ve driven by. It’s the little things…
  3. My neighbor is actually nice. While I was pausing to take a picture of his white flowering tree, he happened to come out from his house and said, “You’re welcome to walk around the fence and take a picture of the purple tree in the back. It’s my favorite.” Wow! That’s nice. The only thing I knew about him prior to this was that he told my husband not to park in front of his house, so we are always very careful to avoid his street space. But now I know that he’s willing to share the beauty of his yard with pedestrians. Everybody’s got priorities.
  4. There is one house that has weeds in its yard. It’s the only one I’ve seen in my neighborhood so far. Everyone else’s lawns are mostly pristine. It’s possible the dandelions and ground ivy just showed up this spring and no one has complained to the neighborhood police, cough, I mean association yet. This is the same house that the less domesticated cat almost clawed me to death.*
  5. I can tell who orders a lot of stuff online, because cardboard boxes are frequently showing up on their doorsteps. Sometimes I’m tempted to walk up to the door and check out the loot. (What’s this? Nordstrom’s delivery? A new home office chair?) But I don’t.

I’ve always been comfortable in the role of the casual onlooker, casually noticing things. There are probably more greatly intriguing things to casually notice than cats and cardboard boxes, but maybe I have some perfecting to do in that area. My casually noticing small details has sometimes gotten me in trouble**, but I still think it’s a gift of mine, along with walking. 😉

Here’s what I think. I think it’s good to take a new turn on your path, and to keep your eyes open. Noticing is the beginning of knowing, so why not take a look around? You might just end up accidentally getting to know your neighbors.


*Sometimes I like to exaggerate a lot.

**”That’s a cool stereo, did you hook the TV audio up to it?” is an annoying question I guess when you’ve spent hours installing some new fangled technology and don’t know how to hook up the TV.


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