Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Take Back Your Yard

I'm reading a fascinating book called Mirrors of the Unseen: Journeys in Iran, that paints a fascinating picture of Persian culture and scenery. I was stuck by his description of a visit to Isfahan, an ancient city surrounding a public square. Around sunset the writer noticed everyone in the city spreading out blankets in the square. He asked his taxi driver what they were doing and was told "same thing they do every day--eating dinner! Many of them sleep out there too."

After reading that I pictured the standard American family, at best gathering around a dinner table together, at worst eating McDonalds on the couch while watching Friends episodes, and I felt a little lonely. American families are so sequestered, with their social time often scheduled and planned, and I wondered if most Americans secretly long for a simpler, more spontaneous existence.

My wife and I live in an apartment complex with nine other families, and I regret to admit that we barely know most of them. The Isfahan story touched a chord in us, and we decided to make a few changes:

Hold more barbecues--these are no-stress, semi-impromptu barbecues where we provide the fire and everyone brings their own food. We held one the other day and it was great. We even got one of our lesser-known neighbors to come outside and join in.

Put Out the Hammock--I've had this hammock in storage for years and never used it--what a shame! I hung it the courtyard and have been spending more time outdoors recently.

Picnic on the Lawn--We want to start eating dinner on a blanket in the yard. Not only do we have friends frequently walking by, we might be able to get some of our neighbors to join in. It's also fun to eat or season your food right out of the garden.

Yesterday afternoon I was getting a little tired of being indoors, so I went outside to read in the hammock. I'm noticing an interesting shift in my mental processes--I now consider the yard as part of my living space. You usually place a mental wall around the area you designate as "home", and now that wall encompasses the outdoor spaces around our apartment as well. I feel like I've taken my yard back.

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