The backyard — i.e. the space behind a house — is an important part of daily life in many countries of the world. Here, in the Midwest United States, the backyard often has pride of place in the everyday life of childhood. The front yard may be more decorative, viewed as sort of the orderly and attractive face of one’s home that is offered to the world. But the backyard is the private space, and that is where the action is.
My own backyard in my growing up years was large, with two big bur oak trees, a small moderately successful vegetable garden in one back corner, a swing in one of the oaks, a bird house in a small maple tree, a flower border, and an informal edging of what seemed like sizable boulders across the very back of the lot. The clothesline was in the backyard. The screen porch protruded out into the backyard. The backyard is where we set up the croquet set in the summer, where we played “Captain, may I?” across the expanse of lawn. One summer we pitched a smallish tent back there and slept in it a few times. In the winter, we would ski down the small hills in the backyard; we had two ski runs, one notoriously steeper than the other. When I look at them now in my adulthood, they both seem to be barely hills at all.
Things went on in the backyard!
In the neighborhood where I live now, a paved bike path is nearby, one section of miles and miles of bike paths that exist in Madison. When we first moved into this house about 30 years ago, what is now the bike path was still a railroad track. A proposal to convert the no-longer-used train track to an all-purpose bike path was slowly (!) making its way through the many levels of committees, proposals, discussion and voting common to city and county governments. Ultimately, the bike path became a reality sometime in those early years of living here. Once completed, the path was an immediate success — for bikers, runners, walkers, people pushing baby strollers, people on roller blades, people walking dogs.
Because the bike path has been established on the bed of a previous train track, it ipso facto follows a route that is located between the backyards of the houses on either side. For me, part of the joy of walking the bike path has always been to have a peek into people’s backyards — the space in residential areas that is usually not visible or accessible from the street side.
Below are images of a number of backyards along the bike path. Some are neat and tidy with amenities for relaxing and carefully tended landscaping Some are not. One is totally not visible behind a high fence, owners who obviously wanted no one peeking into their property. One image shows a sort of community garden that gets planted every spring and that is shared and cared for by several families working together.
Take a look!
And what do you have in your own backyard? Happy summer!