One of the weirdest things about where we live is our backyard. It’s “our” yard, and it isn’t.
We live on land owned by the Threefold Educational Foundation,* which includes commercial, residential, farm, and forest land, and several schools and the college, over 140 acres. The property is surrounded by developed suburbs.
So, while our yard has our toys, our lawn chairs, etc., it’s really not just a yard. It’s also a thoroughfare for the locals. The path bisecting our yard travels between the Waldorf school’s sports field, across the brook to the housing developments abutting the property, and through part of the college, all connecting with other paths and streets that lead to the Waldorf school, the eurythmy school, the Fellowship Community, and the co-op.
In the summer, the local day camp uses the path daily to go to the forest, farm, or the sports field, and they use the brook at the edge of the yard for water and mud play. In the autumn, the fire pit in our yard forms part of the Rumpelstiltskin scene in the Hallowe’en Lantern Walk. All during the school year, children use the path to get to the Waldorf school.
It took some getting used to, but really I think it’s kind of charming. We see lots of friends and neighbors, and feel socially connected to the whole community.
SillyBilly, however, has some issues with it. You see, he gets a little worried when strange kids come and play with his toys. He’s been known to bang on his bedroom window, looking down at the yard and yelling “NO!!!” at some wayward soul who he thinks is going to steal some precious thing. It’s been an opportunity to learn about sharing and generosity.
It’s also the way things are in many other countries, where undeveloped land, even if privately owned, is open for gentle usage by all and sundry. That right is even part of the Swedish constitution! It’s interesting to me that one reason that this right survives so strongly in the Nordic countries is that feudalism never took hold there, with the resulting enclosure of common land. Here in the US, individual property rights hold sway over any noble public right of use, though we do have extensive state and national park land.
The situation here certainly makes me think about property rights, and the meaning of ownership vs. stewardship. I grew up in California suburbia, where every backyard is firmly fenced or walled off. Good fences may make good neighbors in one sense, but really they tend to prevent real neighborliness in my experience. It still strikes me so oddly that on the East Coast it is quite normal for there to be no fences at all around homes, even in the relatively close quarters of suburbia. Then I think about privacy, and what that means, and whether it’s so important.
## A quick clarification: the photos above are not of TEF property . . . just some beautiful fences I found on Wikimedia Commons.
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