The front yard is the stage
Where Do You Find the Welcome Mat?
Thurston Woods is a quiet, residential area where ‘city’ and ‘suburb’ blend together. Front yards are places of personalization within a community setting. Our yard work, craft and care are attempts to answer two calls: Who are you? What do you stand for? To reply, we put up signs, create unique entrances and carefully select plants that tell the public about ourselves.
The American front yard is a stage, backgrounded by the home and opening onto the street as a stage opens onto an auditorium. We spend hours tending, trimming, mowing, pruning, cleaning, decorating and supervising our little piece of land. It is where nature – flowers, trees, shrubs, stones, earth – is constantly tamed. The lawn is thought of as a place for children to play and summer parties, but it is most often a place to traverse and survey, both with our eyes and with our feet.
As we approach a stranger’s house, with each step we feel like we are leaving a public place to enter someone else’s territory. Yet, there are occasional indications that someone inside will be friendly. When we hang signs and flags –“A SuperReader Lives Here” awards, Obama 2012 boards, POW MIA flags,“Pray for Peace” placards, even welcome mats – we are identifying ourselves with a particular group, taking pride in our collective belonging. The yard itself is a sign or a notion that if we craft our yard carefully to a set of social standards, we are good neighbors who add value, both monetary and social, to the street. Our individual actions are for the greater good. Yet, if our lawn is overgrown, if there are weeds, if the paint peels, if holiday decorations are left up too long, if there is no welcome mat, are we bad neighbors? If on our stage, we do not seek a standing ovation, are we shirking an American responsibility?