Point of view switcheroo

Those of us who live in dense urban neighbourhoods don’t have much choice about what we see when we look out of our windows. The houses and yards that surround us are pretty much it. 

If we’re lucky, the properties are well-maintained and there are trees and shrubbery to buffer any unpleasantness. At worst, we contend with unsightly premises. More often, it’s just plain blandness. 

If you happen to have a neighbour like Kate Moon, it’s a different story. Moon is a community developer with Halifax Regional Municipality. Have you seen those mandala-painted intersections and laneways around town? That’s some of her work. 

She organizes community-building events that get folks of all ages out meeting their neighbours, tapping their creative veins, and hatching friendly new co-operative networks. 

Participants in these events brainstorm and collaborate on how best to express the essence of their neighbourhood with paint on asphalt. The result is some pretty colourful streets, not to mention congenial relationships. 

Moon recently offered something like this shared-experience approach to her own neighbours. She owns a circa-1940 house in Central Halifax, which was a ho-hum white with dark green trim when she bought it eight years ago. 

For an unorthodox person like Moon, that just would not do. But money was tight, so she made a four-year plan, in which one side would be finished each year. She started with the back; it became olive green with red, yellow, orange, blue, and purple trim around the windows and doors. 

Cathy and Dale Hirtle’s back yard faces this side of Moon’s property. They were dubious about the colour scheme. “The kids like it,” said Dale. 

The following year, the front of the house got a relatively staid treatment of khaki green with cream trim, but with a concession to artiness through purple bannisters and burnt orange doors. Moon’s not completely happy with this combo and wants to redo it. 

This year, however, it was third time lucky. She decided to let the neighbours to her north choose the paint colours for that side of her house. (Full disclosure: that’s my husband and me.) 

“You have to look at it all the time,” Moon told us. “You should get to choose what colour it is.” 

For the past few years, the view through our kitchen’s large window had featured a rather dingy, peeling expanse of Moon’s house, as well as our next-door neighbour’s crazy-quilt of a back yard (but that’s another story.) We spend a lot of time in our kitchen and looking out of this window, so, to us, this magnanimous offer was gold. 

We chose the new palette based on what we liked, and what we thought would appeal to Moon’s unconventional taste. She’s as delighted as we are with the result. Now we all anticipate ourselves toasting neighbourly co-operation on our back deck a little more often.  

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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