It’s that time of year when many of us spend more time outdoors than in. There are back yard parties, barbecues and get togethers…you get the idea. In some cases people literally move outdoors. You may visit someone and never see the inside of their house. Personally, I believe we learn a lot more about our friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances by spending time in their back yards rather than in their homes.
Growing up in the Niagara Peninsula, I was surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of the city’s “backyard”. Of course part of it ― some might say the best of it ― was the natural wonder of the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Niagara River. The rest of it, however, was lovingly and painstakingly cared for by the Niagara Parks Commission. I understand the “painstakingly” part, because we had “show gardens”, in our own backyard which required a lot of upkeep and work that usually fell to the younger members of the family. Many’s the weekend I remember spending on my hands and knees, weeding the perfectly laid out and intricate floral patterns. To this day I hate gardening! But I didn’t mind being able to walk outside and pick the fresh peaches, cherries and plums that grew from the trees surrounded by the well-weeded flowerbeds. Early in my adult life, when I took on gardening again, I bought a ton of flower seeds. Determined to not create any form of symmetry, I carefully ripped the top off each package and put them in a big mixing bowl, then stirred vigorously. There was no way of knowing what I had planted where. It was always a surprise when something popped out of the ground and bloomed. Of course there were times when we weren’t sure if it was a flower or a weed … and I liked it that way! Ok, it wasn’t one of my better ideas.
Without mentioning any names, here are a few of the backyards I have experienced that gave me a look into the people that own them.
One of the most adventurous backyards I spend time in is decorated like a Tiki Hut. When you walk out onto the deck, which takes up most of the space, you are surrounded by tiki torches. You can amble up to the bamboo bar with its thatched roof and order any number of exotic beverages, or just play with all the shells covering the bar. In the evening the fire pits glow and the coconuts flow. When I leave, I always find it jarring to realize I wasn’t in the tropics.
On my first visit to one friend’s home in Mississauga I followed all the twists and turns into suburbia and pulled into the driveway of a lovely home, not unlike many lovely homes I have been to. Not too big, not too small. He answered the door, invited us in and casually said, “It’s such a nice day, lets go into the back yard. We could go for a walk if you like”. A walk? In the backyard? Ah, yes. His “back yard” … the majestic Bruce Trail. The Bruce Trail, with the trees so tall you can’t see the tops, is the oldest and longest continuous footpath in Canada. It runs along the Niagara Escarpment (an UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve) from Niagara to Tobermory, spanning more than 885 km of main trail and 400 km of side trails. Next time I bring my hiking boots!
Some people have water in their backyards. I have spent many summer days in the backyards of people who have pools. These yards are usually immaculate with pristine water in the pool. But, I spent this past weekend in Nestleton, ON. teaching someone the basics of twitter, linkedin and facebook. While fervently bent over the computer I could look out on her backyard. It was calling me. Lake Scuggog. Her backyard was Lake Scuggog! I just wanted to run to the end of the dock and jump in the boat and cruise!
One couple I know has a very distinct back yard. It is large and well kept and backs onto a creek. Near the creek end, attached to some trees are two identical hammocks. They like to lie beside the babbling creek and read, together. I think this is lovely and it tells me a great deal of the nature of the solid relationship this couple has. What truly makes this yard unique, however, is that smack in the middle of it stands a great, huge, full size, anchored in cement, ham radio tower. The husband is a ham radio operator and enthusiast. A “by the book” kind of guy, all the proper permissions from all the proper authorities were in place before this mighty tower took ground. The telling tale of this couple, though, was his wife’s reaction. With sheer pleasure on her face she simply said, “It’s his hobby and he enjoys it so much!”
My favourite backyard story is from a man I never met. He is the only person I will name here. Sean Platt, also known as WriterDad wrote a blog called “Wrapping the Morning Glories” that actually made me weep. It reminded me of the childhood gardens I didn’t fully appreciate at the time, and of my own personal childhood “Narnia”.
As for me and my backyard…I live in a condo. My backyard is a balcony that is half taken over by a gas barbecue. In one tiny corner is my chair where I sit contentedly every morning with a coffee and a book. My feet hang over the balcony as I greedily soak up the morning sun which moves on by 9:00 am. It may not be the “Narnia” of my childhood but it is my little piece of paradise.
So…what’s in your back yard?