The Back Lane
by Jim Low
copyright 1997

Catch a monarch butterfly then let her fly away.  Feel the tickle of a ladybug as she strolls along your arm.  Colourful wild flowers sprouting between the cracks of broken pavement makes the perfect bouquet.  Collect your autumn leaves to show off nature’s display.  In winter, build the snow forts and snowmen to guard your way.  In summer build a treehouse from scraps the workers throw away.

Rich is life in our urban back lane.  It awakens the dreams, imagination, and freedom of youth who find the back lane grander than any playground.  While adults in our mature communities carefully tend their front lawns, they ignore the back lane.  Thank goodness.  This bestows upon children the freedom to relate with nature as she makes inroads into the urban lane.  Neglected?  No.  Attentively tended by our flowering youth.

Building that clubhouse by the back lane is a child's first experience in planning and co-operation with peers.  Constructed out of scraps of wood and metal with a roof consisting of a discarded paint-covered tarpaulin, and furnished with chairs and mattresses that never survived the front curb for trash pickup, it is the pride of our gang.  It may be an eyesore to adults, but it is the most beautiful house in the world to the children who built it.  Neighbourhood children develop their own community spirit.

Beautiful yellow flowers sprout around the old rusted paint can.  Adults call them weeds; to children they are Dandy Lions.  Insects and birds challenge you to play with them.  Angels and mysterious tracks appear in the snow.  Remember when you were a child: you noticed a new weed growing at the back of your property by the lane? You grow up to discover that “weed” has grown into a large tree.  Now you see children climbing and building their new playhouse in that tree.  Hanging from a limb is a swing made of rope tied about an old bicycle lock.  Today, two girls knock on my kitchen window that looks out over the back lane.  “May we play on your swing?” they ask.  My swing?   “Of course” I reply.  Watching them play I kept thinking: my swing.  When they finish, it will be my turn on my swing.

As the children grow older and move mischievously through their teens, the back lane grows more significant.  They discover the night life of the lane.  There, they prowl by night: exploring the derelict cars as they dream of the freedom of the road; experimenting with all those forbidden things that only adults are supposed to use; learning how to socialise with members of the opposite sex: doing all the things that are forbidden—the same things we never did as teenagers.

Have you explored your back lane recently?  Looks terrible?  It's beauty from heaven to children.  Look at your local back lane through the eyes of youth again.
Years were spent wandering and searching across Canada: from the Arctic Ocean through The Territories across the mountains and prairies to the Great Lakes; from the Pacific to the Atlantic; across tundra, Labrador and New Found Land: Searching for the vigorous life of nature.  But it is found at home as I look out my kitchen window: treasures of nature and people found in the back lane.  No where else on earth will you encounter such richness.

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