Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Neighbourly Lessons in Gratitude

I love where I live.

I met an inspiring woman the other day. She's in her eighties and lives a few streets away. We got talking about the neighbourhood and old houses and she invited me into see hers. As soon as I stepped past the threshold I knew I was in the home of a remarkable person.

Every neat-as-a-pin, yet comfortable, room was sparingly furnished with elegant teak pieces that looked as though they had been newly purchased last week . . . in 1955 and on every wall hung enormous, beautiful painted canvases, mostly portraits with pleasant personalities that seemed to reach out of the surface asking you to get to know them better. I lingered at a handsome smiling young man that absolutely shone with yellow tones from mustard to marigold.

"My long ago paramour, he stayed in France," she sighed.

"Are you the artist?" I asked,  impressed.

"Yes, most are mine. Oh, I wanted to see how it was done," she said as she noticed me studying a really convincing copy of the Mona Lisa that hung in her sitting room.

She told me that she has traveled and lived in many places around the world but that this is where she has put down her roots. She has lived in the house for 55 years, her children grew there, her grandchildren love to visit and she has two studios out the back where she takes small groups for painting lessons. She said that when her friends come to stay from overseas that they are blown away at how close she lives to the city and yet what a relaxed and idyllic life she has.

"It's paradise here," she said smiling at me.

I came away changed from that meeting.

I had been feeling rather antsy, flighty, foot-itchy lately. Some friends have recently relocated to London (making me really envious, it sounds so exciting) and Dette is about to set off on her incredible European escapade.

Blah, I thought. Boring, I thought. We should pick up and go somewhere. Relocate. Have an adventure. I even made a mental (googled) list of places that I thought would suit me: Victoria, Canada; Aarhus, Demark; Gotland, Sweden; Somewhere nice that I haven't narrowed down yet in New Zealand?...hmmm.

But I do actually love where we live.

I love our lifestyle. I love that we have roots and family here. I love the community. The people, who will share life lessons and readily invite strangers into their homes! The skinny musicians loping along with guitars slung across their backs - just like generations of hip kids before them. Elderly Italian and Greek families with bursting vegetable patches, illegally planted but ignored by the authorities, on their front council verge. The pink and grey galahs nesting in street trees and the magpies hopping about in their brilliant white and black below them.

I love the mild winters and the spectacular spring and autumn days (we don't have to talk about summer). I adore our house that we are making so comfortable and beautiful and the memories that my children are creating here daily.

I love the open blue sky that we enjoy (3200 hours a year).

I love that we're walking distance to friends, the best park in town, foreign restaurants, art galleries and cool little wine bars playing original music. I love that we can holiday nearby in really pristine wilderness, deserted beaches with the softest, whitest sand and world-class wine regions

Perhaps I'll just content myself with fantasy international holiday plans. That way I can come back to "paradise".


  1. What an amazing meeting! She sounds facinating! I'm glad you live here too, because although we don't live within walking distance and I'm not fond of freeway driving you are easier to visit here than if you lived overseas...and really you guys have had some adventures -America and a scandinavian trip in a car with out booking in advance. This feels like my very first adventure really, Thailand was fun but it was not my adventure.

  2. Bloom where you're planted! Sounds like you're taking it to heart.