urban gardens

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?

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