Mister Fred Rogers made the most of his neighborhood. I try to do the same, by walking the streets in the name of exercise. As a bonus, I make interesting and not-so-interesting observations. You can learn a lot by walking the neighborhood, which is completely different from casing the neighborhood, which I do not condone or recommend in any circumstance.

While walking the streets (not streetwalking, which I also do not condone) you can practice your botany skills by learning which trees bud out first in the spring and which flowers bloom when. You note which neighbors grow their own vegetables, and who cultivates rose bushes and perennial beds. You also discover who prefers low-maintenance shrubs instead of finicky roses and who takes the hands-off approach by sticking artificial geraniums in their window boxes.

You learn who is planning for an addition by the lumber in the driveway and the infant stroller box next to a garbage can.

Yards with swing sets, driveways with little bikes and sidewalk chalk art make for houses with children.

Some have firepits surrounded by lawn chairs and tiki torches, and decks and front porches with porch swings. I think those people might make good friends.

Other people have bird feeders. Feeding the birds is a nice thing to do. People who feed birds have friendship potential written all over them. They probably hobnob with the neighbors with firepits and porches.

Remnants of a blue eggshell lying on the sidewalk reveals baby robins have hatched in a tree nearby.

A home’s size does not dictate the expanse of the corresponding garage. Tiny homes often have colossal garages. A person’s garage is their castle. It makes me  wish I had a bigger garage. #garageenvy

One of the most critical and important aspects to pay keen attention to during neighborhood walks is dogs. Dogs may be man’s best friend, but they do not always give the same love to walkers of the male, female or zombie variety. You can usually tell friendly dogs from the nonfriendly sort by examining their tails. An upwardly wagging tail is a happy tail and a dog’s tail does not lie. Still, it’s safer to give dogs a large berth and cross to the other side of the street when confronted with one of unknown temperament.

Sometimes you come upon a cat, but you can’t be sure which house the cat owns because cats prefer to be mysterious that way. Once, a kitten followed me for about three blocks. I got to a busy intersection and was afraid to cross for fear the kitten would get hit by a car. Luckily, he or she decided to head to her own home instead of following me to mine.

During an early morning stroll, you learn who recently cleaned out a closet or garage because they have a bunch of stuff sitting on the curb next to a piece of cardboard with “free” written on it in large capital letters. A yard sale indicates a neighbor has cleaned out their entire basement and not just a closet. A moving sale lets you know you will soon get new neighbors.

New neighbors can be exciting. You never know if they’ll feed the birds or install a firepit or welcome you over to sit on their deck. The possibilities are endless.

I’m pretty sure Mister Rogers would agree.



Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. More columns are available at the Slices of Life page on Facebook.