Last weekend we were up in the area, bumbling around when a man limped by and stopped to chat, wanting to know what the space was. And he said, "what a pity no one uses it".
In the past five years we have walked the dogs, watched sunsets, made plans, picked blackberries, collected kindling and sticks for my bean teepees. I have watched my kids learn to climb rocks and trees, to swing, to run down hills and climb back up them. We have eaten plums, picked flowers and jumped back and forth across the tiny creek. We have had picnics. We have played endless hours of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. This is where I have noticed my babies growing into children.
I know what 'use' is code for, and I don't like it. I wonder how a dozen big houses sitting in ashphalt, with small backyards and big garages, could possibly prove a richer use of this space. To wipe out the mysterious, the possibility of adventures, in favour of sitting on a couch or mopping the tiles in the family room shows a lack of imagination and a misunderstanding of what space can mean for children and their families. I very much hope that guy is not sitting on the local council.
I pointed out that we were, in fact using it. (That families do in fact, exist.) And he had the grace to look a little discomforted. He tried to make things right by saying, the place could at least be tidied up a bit. I let it lie. Because if a person prefers concrete paths and banks of azaleas, there'll be no changing their mind.