Claustrophobic or Cozy

City living presents few opportunities for gardening or lounging in hammocks on balmy summer evenings. I often wish I had a yard with a swing-set and a gazebo. Willows to lie under. Vegetables to pick. Quiet space. Private space.


My yard is attached – on three sides – to other yards. One at each flank and one behind. And each of those yards is attached to three more the same way. Links in a chain forcing neighbors to be neighborly – and here neighborly means respecting the precious and limited space between us for the buffer it is.

I don’t always see my yard as small. I often peer down at it from my bedroom window and smile. It’s home. It’s cozy in its suburban way.

You make due with what you have. I have this:
Suburban Yard

When I could have this:

There are few secrets in my neighborhood and others similar to it. A quiet evening in this borough of New York includes the clamor of family conversations, radios with the volume at medium, piano practice, neighbor’s sneezes and more, flowing out open windows, mingling as they waft along on a breeze through the alley made up by our yards.

The rail is only feet away. It rumbles by on schedule, shaking the foundations. Planes crisscross overhead. Their roar is like a pause button for conversations. You get used to the noise. Sometimes only aware of its existence when another place offers silence. And then the silence is almost unnerving.

But here, as evenings progress to night, mockingbirds taunt us. Tease us. Keep us awake but smiling as they sing one song after another. Some seeming well off key. Others cheerful and carefree.

Listen here… this is precisely what can be heard through my open windows late at night and early in the morning:

I can complain about city life and the lack of elbowroom. Or I can embrace it for what it is. Take pleasure in the nearness of people, the tenacity of nature, and relish every moment for what it is rather than what it could be.

What’s in your space that you once wished were different but now appreciate as uniquely yours?

14 Responses to Claustrophobic or Cozy

  • What a good reminder to be grateful and find joy in what we have! I don;t own my own place- I can’t paint the walls or change big things. I have no garden- but we do have some potted herbs. All the physical things I want in a home I don;t have, but my house comes with my job- which means I don;t pay for it- and my family is with me, we are happy and safe and maybe someday we’ll have a dream home.

  • Oh wow, Alica. That’s beautiful. You focused right in on what really matter – family, happiness and safety. And how wonderful that your place comes with the job! Nothing can beat that!

  • I love the sound of birds singing in nearby trees. Though I live in a smallish city of 80,000 people, and the 3 sides of our yard abut the neighbors’ yards and you can hear everything, when I sit outside on our deck I try to appreciate that I have a lovely place to live, my kids are happy, and life is good.

    • Yes! Your neighborhood sounds exactly like mine. You hear everything! Someone three houses down sneezes and you feel like saying ‘bless you’. 🙂 But yes, when we really sit back and see what we have, it’s easier to realize your sentiments – life is good.

      Thanks for coming by!

  • Debbie, what a good attitude to take about it all. My husband and I both grew up waaay out in the country. Now, we live in a highly populated area. I’m so sick of it. I’m tired of the lack of privacy. I’m tired of being asked for neighbor favors. I’m tired of…well, all of it. You reminded me to be thankful for what I do have. Thanks for this post.

    • Catie, I fully understand feeling sick of the lack of space and privacy. I often feel that way. Sometimes, I’ll go into the yard to read when neighbors might be in their yards as well. Neighborly chatting can feel invasive at that point, and yet, since this is where I live, I’ve finally learned to appreciate that my neighbors are kind enough to want to speak with me. I could have neighbors who constantly antagonize or argue. I guess I’ve finally gotten to a point in my life where I’ve learned to look on the bright side. It’s healthier and makes me and those around me smile. It ain’t easy. But it can happen.

  • I think yours is definitely cozy and beautiful! What a great attitude. Thanks for reminding us to be grateful for what we have. 🙂

  • Having recently finished “The Hunger Games” series where they combine a Mocking Bird and and Blue Jay, I always wondered what one of them specifically sounded like…and how beautiful. Of course, after about 40 seconds in, I was good and shut it off. How cool would it be to have random easily accessible buttons of different sounds of nature @ your fingertips when the feeling moved you to visit with a given species…but I totally digress 🙂 A lot of space just means a lot of landscaping and upkeep 😉

    • LOL! So true Tuere! We’ve yet to find “off buttons” on the birds around here but… bird songs that go on… and on… are welcome considering the options here. 🙂 But what a great way to look at having a smaller space – less work! Love it!

  • Your yard is lovely, Debora! You have the cozy chairs, sun, plants–and no grass to mow!

    I’m further out east than you, and I love my 1/4 acre, but it’s on a busy street, and the yard is fenced in, but it’s chain-link, and we’re lower on the hill than our neighbors, so there is not a lot of privacy. We have summer privacy, because I let the edges of the yard go wild–cheap fencing!

    3 years ago, we created a little reading/relaxing area with a swing love seat–good for reading, chatting, and napping. Making that area made me happy. I put some tall plants in containers around it, and built up a garden around the tree next to it. Except for the mosquitoes, it’s great!

    • No grass to mow, is right! We used to have only grass back there but had to carry the lawnmower through the house since we’re attached on two sides. The deck was the best investment we could have made.

      I love the sound of your reading/relaxing area. It sounds so luscious and secluded. A bit of country quiet on an otherwise busy block.

  • I believe your space is what you make it. And you have made your space your sanctuary. Like Liz, I live further east than you, but my yard is small compared to my neighbors. I love it though, since we put in a pool where I can lounge when feeling lazy or swim laps when energetic. My backyard is private, bordered by mature arborvitae–and relaxing. I love to listen to the birds sing and watch our resident cardinal pair. Yes, we’re blessed, too, thankful for all we have. I’m a glass half-full kind of girl, just like you. 🙂

    • Oh wow, Jolyse, I LOVE how you describe your yard. Small is fine because, you’re right, it is what you make it. I think the birds make all the difference for me. Even if I lived in the heart of the Village, if I heard cardinals or mockingbirds – anything besides pigeons – I’d be a happy camper. 🙂

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