Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Shared Expanses

My second favorite meme today asks what's on your front yard right now -- a question I submitted, which makes it all the more humiliating to find that it doesn't apply. For what it's worth, here's what I can offer:

Technically, we have no yard. Yards belong to first floor residents; when you live on the third floor, among the eaves and slantroof spaces of a splitlevel, you take what you can get, and ask permission first. For us, sitting outside means sitting outside someone else's window, and isn't privacy part of what yard is all about?

Too, even if we did, nothing here is really ours. We live in school housing, an old once-infirmary farmhouse on the edge of the largest coed boarding school in New England; our house and its plot, our neighbor's houses and the roads connecting them are all part of an expanse of over three thousand acres of land owned for the last hundred years by the school itself. It's everyone's yard, and no one's; what ownership we due feel is due to politeness and propriety, not mortgages and liens as is usually the case. Sometimes, when I can't sleep in the wee hours of the morning, it's because I'm thinking about the hard truth of this: if I were to be fired tomorrow, we'd be homeless, too.

I suppose if we had seniority among residents we might have a stronger case for a patch of land to call our own in name, if not legality, but we're freshly out of dorm this year. Faculty Dean Pam (1st floor) and English Teacher Chuck (2nd floor) are older, have taught here longer, and lived here first. When we wanted to set up a swingset and bench for the baby over the summer, they were gracious enough to grant us a few square feet on the edge of the back meadow, and we were grateful for it. Even now, if you open the picture window and crane your head past the fire escape birdfeeders, you can see the corner of it, half-buried from yesterday's storm.

But only barely, and dimly at that. Because it's dark, and the whole world's covered in a fluffy nine inches, snow late in coming and driven through all day long as the storm doubled back and the fat white flakes fell and fell and fell: on the yard, yes, the tiny strip in front which hugs the road and holds nothing and the wide expanse in back; on the cultivated sides, the trees, and the swingset too; on the squirrel nests and the family of five doves huddling on the low branches of the biggest tree. Even now, like a blanket in the night where I cannot see, snow covers the catprints and the fallen seeds below the picture window that isn't ours, crusting against Pam's flat Volvo roof in the parking lot, and burying Chuck's snowmobile on its track behind the house.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:02 PM |

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