We just returned from a trip to LA where we visited with family and enjoyed the warm weather. Taking a walk along the Venice promenade, we came across a house with a tiny patch of AstroTurf. A sign reads: “World’s Smallest Front Yard.” Ironically, of course, this is a home with an enormous front yard – the expansive Venice Beach and the ocean beyond. It is the shared property of all who come to enjoy the sand and surf.
Our Reservoir Hill home has a small front yard (though not quite as small as this one). Our Chicago condo had no yard at all. And yet we have enjoyed, in the both cities, a close proximity to expansive city parks.
There is a story in the Talmud of a man who once observed a farmer picking errant stones from his field and throwing them into the street. Said the stranger to the farmer, “why are you throwing stones from land which is not yours onto property which belongs to you?” The farmer dismissed the comment as the confused statement of a simpleton. Some time later, the man fell upon hard times and had to sell his farm, and as he walked down the street, he tripped on one of the stones that he had thrown there. Only then did the man begin to understand the stranger’s prescient comments.
Some yards, like some houses, are big and some are not. City-living in the New Jewish Neighborhood means being concerned not simply with our own property, our own space, but with the shared public spaces that surround us. One can never entirely predict the whims of a fickle economy. But the park, God-willing, is always the park, and the ocean is always ours.