This past Saturday evening, as we were finishing up dinner with the kids and Amber and I shared a bottle of wine, I was thinking to myself how much I love our backyard. What a tranquil space I helped create for reading, eating, or sitting by the fire pit and talking.
The backyard project helped me truly understand the cliché about “blood, sweat and tears” as I shed an inordinate amount of all three in service to this effort and I would be hard pressed to tell you which one was shed the most. By the way, none of those fluids have been much help with the grass.
We are the third owners of this Tudor style house built in 1937. The first being the builder himself, Clyde, who lived here with his wife until 1977. James and Carol took possession of the house next and lived here together until he passed around 2015. She remained for a few more years before relocating to a residential assistance facility.
Carol loved flowers. Really, really loved flowers. More than any other flower though, she loved roses. Roses, when tended to, are lovely. From the photos we have found, Carol had created a stunning rose garden behind the house. Sadly, due to her incapacitation, by the time we moved in, garden had become a cruel sort of torture gauntlet. When we first moved in, we would threaten our boys with two laps around the backyard for any infraction of the rules.
It was a yeoman’s task to fight back the roses and create a backyard more suited for our purposes. When we took possession of the house, the backyard was so overgrown you really couldn’t even walk around. It was difficult to get out of the back door between the roses and wisteria.
With some help from my wife and sister (two separate people, thank you), we fought to reclaim the space. The first week in the house was mid-June and the daytime temps never dropped below 90. Every inch of my clothing for five days was soaked with sweat and blood and when no one was looking, the tears I mentioned before.
My arms were shredded by the end of the week, but not in the cool sexy way, but the bloody disgusting way. Worse though than the thorns was the fight to rip out the roots. Axes, saws, shovels and a lower back that was having an existential crisis regarding its very existence.
When the yard was finally cleared, more than 4 trailers worth of debris was hauled away and I had a blank slate in which to get started. More tears.
I set about planting grass, creating a Belgian block border, putting in a stone walk way and building a fire pit, as well as hanging some cafe lights around the edge.
It was anything but an easy endeavor. The kids considered helping once, but thought better of it.
So when sitting out under the stars with my family, enjoying a glass of wine and looking out on the backyard considering all the hours I spent, all the fluids I shed and all the effort I put into making my backyard exactly as I had envisioned it, I can’t help but think how I would trade it all in for a decent public plaza.
I know, a very long walk to get to the point, but this was to emphasize the point. It did take a long time, it took a ton of effort and it wasn’t cheap either. I love the backyard I have created, but it’s also making the best of a bad situation. I don’t need or want so much solitary space. I don’t need all this privacy. I would much prefer people.
I didn’t grow up in a city, I was suburban through and through. Walking through town was something drunks and crazies did. An adult on a bicycle was someone who had clearly made some bad choices. Privacy was prioritized. Having plenty of yard was a big deal. Square footage was how you knew who was most important in town.
Can I just say how much I don’t get it. What the hell is all this space for? What kind of activities do you need those acres for? Are you hosting little league games? Will there be impromptu marching band practice? Is it because you really love mowing? And if you don’t love mowing, why do you keep watering your lawn?
And the privacy thing, just what the hell is going on back there? What are you doing all the time that you need acres and acres of privacy for. Nude gardening? Do you work on your plot to overthrow the government at your patio table? What’s so secret? Can anyone explain?
Yards are cool and all, but have you ever sat in a great public plaza? I don’t need my own space. I don’t require a yard. I would be happier to share. I don’t do all that many activities. As mentioned above, the backyard is nice for reading, but I would happily do that at a cafe or public park. It’s nice for having a meal, but an outdoor restaurant accomplishes that much better than I can. Better food and a prettier, more social setting. Finally, sitting around the fire and chatting? Again, pretty sure a public plaza was built with this idea in mind.
All the things I do in my backyard would be better accomplished by great public space. In addition, I would never have to mow or fight with roses. I could eat food from someone that is professionally trained in preparing food. I could enjoy an environment that is much more elegant than mine and the best part of all, others would be sharing it with me.
In nearly every single instance, I would prefer to dine, drink or hangout with more people. My family would have a better experience dining with 100 other families from the neighborhood than eating alone in the backyard.
I don’t need this much space, I don’t require this much privacy, but its really hard to find good public space. We are all so spread out because of our individual stuff, which makes it hard for us to share anything. While this might be great for the companies that sell stuff, it’s not great for people.
I don’t need a private yard, I can share a park with my community. I don’t require a private pool, I can share a pool with my community. I have no need for a dumbass single serve Keurig, I can get coffee with my community. I am not about to build a faux Irish pub in my basement, I can drink beer at a bar with my community. I don’t want to have to own a car, I would be much happier to share a bus or train with my community.
In sharing, we get to be with one another. We are reminded of our humanity and that we all exist as a part of a community. We are friendlier and we are happier. Our mental health is significantly improved and our lives are just simply better. Being together is our natural state, and we have systematically built it out of our lives, and by no minor expense either.
That’s the kicker. This thing we did was wildly expensive. Monstrously, crazy, insane, bananas expensive. Once, we all shared our community resources. We shared parks, movie theaters, cafes, pools, streets and trains. We were happier when we felt connected. We also had more money. Everyone had more money when we didn’t need to own all the things individually.
In sharing, we can all save some money, free up some space, give ourselves a chance to make some friends. In sharing, we can live closer together and get rid of some cars, maybe return the streets to the kids so they can play freely again. In sharing, we can learn more about one another, but also have so much more as individuals. I don’t want to garden in the nude, I have no need for a home theater and I don’t require space for a pickup game of football in the yard. I live in town so that I can share. Share a square, share a cafe, share a pool and share a life with the people I share a town with.