The Backyard Story

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.

Backyard 1

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!





With a fire pit.


Oof Da!


No peekee, no lookee!



Of cabbages and kings!

And what do you have in your own backyard?  Happy summer!


So Here’s Looking at You

Betty Photo glassesThis is amazing!

In the past 3-4 weeks, I have had cataract surgery on both eyes, first the right and then —  2 days ago — the left.  My days are temporarily ruled by a schedule of putting drops in my eyes, but, oh, the clear vision that I have is absolutely wonderful.

It’s all good.  It is definitely all good!

It’s been a lifelong odyssey — from not being able to read what was written on the blackboard in first grade, being fitted with my first pair of glasses when I was 7 years old, first contact lenses when I was 19 years old, and finally dealing with a combination of contact lenses, bifocals and reading glasses from age 49 onward.

I feel a sense of liberation.  I was advised against the multiplex lenses, so I will still use reading glasses.  But to be able to see well otherwise, with no glasses and no contact lenses, feels very freeing.

So, here’s looking at you — at age 7, wearing my first pair of glasses, wire rims and all.  That was my life, from thence forward, but now, no more.

It is definitely all good!



Sixty Years of Contact Lenses!

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, my roommate in the dorm was from just west of Chicago.  We had a great year together, and one of the things I especially remember her for is the fact that she had contact lenses and wore them every day.  I was totally amazed and captivated.

Contact lenses were so new at that time that they were not yet available here in Madison.  I had been fitted with eye glasses in first grade when my teacher realized that I could not see what she had written on the blackboard.  After wearing them every day  since then, I could only imagine, with envy, what life would be like without having to wear glasses.

So the summer after that sophomore year, I went to Chicago to get fitted for contacts.  At that stage in the game, as I remember, the lenses were rigid and not gas permeable (as they are now and have been for decades).  I walked out of the eye doctor’s office with nothing on my face, no glasses perched on my nose, and, yet, I could see the individual leaves on the trees!

Never mind that it took patience to learn how to put them in and take them out.  Never mind that it took a long time for the contacts to feel comfortable.  Never mind that for days and weeks I felt like I had “sand” in my eyes.  Wearing them and being able to actually see without glasses was well worth all of it.


At first, in addition to the “sand,” one or the other of the lenses spontaneously popped out fairly regularly, especially if I forgot and rubbed my eyes.  I remember my co-workers and I searching for one lost lens and finally finding it on the front of the shelf below the counter at the concession stand where I worked that summer.  Another time, one popped out when I was doing some early field work in a hospital; it was virtually  invisible on the terrazzo floor.  I learned then the trick to use a flashlight, and, sure enough, we found it under the bed as it reflected the beam.  And, there were many, many other incidents of a lens temporarily lost but, also, ultimately always found.

So . . . . nearly sixty years of wearing contact lenses!

In a few more days, however, the contact lens part of my daily life will be over.  I have cataract surgery scheduled for next week — first, the right eye, and, a couple weeks later, the left eye.  There will be no more contact lenses.  There will be no more carrying out the routines of cleaning and conditioning the lenses every night, of rinsing them and putting them in my eyes in the morning, of keeping the little case for the lenses scrubbed, of figuring out how best to wear or not wear them on the long airplane ride to wherever, of making sure I have the cleaner and conditioner packed for any days away from home, of dealing with a speck of something that has gotten under the lens and feels like a giant splinter leading to copious eye watering — all while I am up in front, giving a class lecture or conference presentation.

But, I have loved my contact lenses!  Once the “sand” problem resolved, I was lucky to be able to wear them long and well every day.  On more than one occasion in recent years, I have somewhat proudly told the eye clinic staff how long I had been wearing contact lenses.  And they have been unfailingly kind, reacting, of course, with total amazement!

The long familiar morning and evening routines will be gone forever.  From what I’ve heard, the colors in the world will be incredibly brighter.  I will be able to drive safely at night again.  It’ll all be good, right?  Wish me luck!