Amblin' Alameda: May Day

Amblin' Alameda: May Day

Morton Chalfy

Summer came to Alameda on May 1 this year and we retreated to our back yard to greet it. We sat on our back porch under a canopy of morning glory vines and sipped ice water and enjoyed the gentle breezes. Our yard is surrounded by a hedge of bamboo and the wind rustles the leaves with a musical rubbing sound that, if listened to long enough, will put one into a light doze. It certainly does so for our cat, who stretches out in the shade of a wicker chair, yawns, flicks his tail end and promptly falls asleep. When the air is this soft and warm and reminiscent of Mama's bosom it is hard not to want to join him.

Alameda is home to many back yards, and their uses vary as much as their owners. Some are used entirely for parking and storage, paved and with a shed in the corner. Others are playgrounds for the children who live in the house. But many, like ours, are retreats and places to entertain guests.

When my sweetie throws her annual New Year's Day party we close the doors to our bedroom with the cats inside and open the doors to our back yard, to the delight of many of our friends. Ours is a small house, and the ability to add the equivalent of two large rooms by opening those doors is what makes a party for three dozen even feasible.

In my relatively short sojourn in Alameda, I have been in numerous back yards and one day would like to conduct a tour of the ones I think are best. These are spaces to which careful thought has been applied and consequently are comfortable, beautiful and a joy to socialize in. Usually they are shaded by trees, adorned by flowering plants and carpeted with grass: oases of civility hidden behind houses and fences, hedges and trellises.

On my walks I see the fronts of houses with an occasional glimpse of the treasured spots hidden within, and I have to imagine what possibilities people have taken advantage of. My personal favorites come with comfortable seating, plenty of shade and ease of socializing. The kind of back yard where you can easily envision yourself, half-drunk glass of wine in hand, chatting amiably with a new acquaintance and feeling a part of the place.

Back yards, by their nature, are places one has to be invited into. Private places, secret from the casual passersby, a true inner sanctum. Being invited into them and the sociability they afford feels like being invited into the heart of Alameda.

I know that our variable-by-the-day climate will soon turn cooler and for a week or more leave summer behind. But right now I'm loving the soft breeze on my skin on my back porch.


Submitted by Jeannie Graham (not verified) on Tue, May 6, 2014

Here's a great way to see some great back yards/gardens in Alameda:
Maybe I'll see you there.

Submitted by Tina B. Tessina (not verified) on Tue, May 6, 2014

Lovely, Mort. And you're welcome in our back yard any time.