Simple appreciation


On my walks I venture out to a range of places in Sydney. One such place lines the foreshore of the Sydney Harbour. I amble along at a dawdling pace because I am in awe of the beauty of nature, the idyllic location of the homes and the incomparable view of the water.  It is a divine outing that restores my soul even though set in the midst of a busy city.

Over the years I walked past many houses. Usually the windows are devoid of life. Maybe a dog or two peers out or a flutter of movement can be seen behind the window. There are two houses that stand out on my walk.

One house is a feature because it is what I would call my ‘dream’ house. I admire the house as it is painted in my favourite colour, surrounded by beautiful well maintained gardens and inviting with its features, balconies and wooden decks. Yet it is just a house, right?  I still walk by and look at it with fondness.

The other house I see is set farther back from the path.  Whenever I pass I see in the window-enclosed verandah an older lady reclining in a comfortable chair surrounded by pillows. Sometimes I see her being fed by a lady attending her.   I have always wondered about her life, what it is like looking out at the window every day at us walkers and such. I imagine that she never gets bored by either the abundant nature, water, trees and flowers. I could look at this all day if I had too.  Yet she also seemed out of reach, almost like a figment of my imagination, a painting temporarily coming to life.

On this walk my main source of human contact is simply a smile, nod or hello from a fellow walker. Runners pass too quickly. Occasionally I might be admiring the same oasis of gardening or come upon the gardener. They are all simply extensions of the experience.

Then one day as I approached my favourite house I saw a gardener. He was trimming back the plants including a majestic red/pink frangipani (plumeria) tree. (Did I also mention this is my favourite plant?)  As I approach I see a lady amongst the garden. Yeah! I get to meet the owner of the house. I know this sounds corny but I wanted to tell her how much I admire and love they way she presents her house and garden.  You can see the love. So I did. Just strangers but not so much after that. I never expected to see her again.  As a token of her appreciation though she asked if I wanted to take with me a cutting from the tree. Really? Of course I would!!!  

I returned home to plant this tree which despite all my non gardening non green thumb aspects is thriving.  Every time I look at the tree I think of the connection I have in this world to a complete stranger and how all we did was exchange appreciation for each other. How simple.

So months later on my walk again along this path I pass by the other house. This time I see the lady that is usually feeding the old lady tending to the garden. Wow another human being I can connect with in this world of mystery I have created.  So being who I am I walk up to her to introduce myself and say hi.  

It turns out she looks after her 93 year old mother. Wow what a gift she gives to her mother.  I remark how I always love seeing her mother in the window. I imagine she is happy with her view and happy with what she see’s in this small inlet. She tells me she does in fact love seeing people walk by. I say I have wanted to wave, say hello but thought she might not notice or think I am crazy. Oh, on the contrary I am told. In fact she has a series of people that walk by regularly that always make a point of waving to her. She calls them her ‘waving group’. How simple a way to show you are appreciated.  The elderly mother’s lack of ability to get out and about doesn’t stop her from engaging in the world in her own way.  

So the daughter says ‘give her a wave’. And I do. I am not sure if the smile on my face was bigger than the wave but it felt good. She waved back. We connected. We shared simply that a connection. There was no I need this or you need that from me. We simply saw each other and shared.

I walked back to my car with a bit more lightness in my step. I passed my favourite house absent of it’s owner’s or gardener’s presence.  Yet I felt connected. Even though this is not my local neighbourhood it is a place of people living ordinary lives being themselves.

So I wonder whether the people that do call this their neighbourhood know these ladies well. I sure hope so.

I also wonder what stories they could tell!  Perhaps for another time.


Jenn Shallvey