I'm sitting on the upper level of a Frontrunner Train this morning, heading to the Utah Museum of Fine art with 26 tenth graders. And as a testament of their good behavior, I'm actually able to take out my laptop and write.
I enjoy the Frontrunner. It's a relaxing ride, but more than anything, it lets me see my community from a different perspective. On the freeway, you can't see much of anything anymore. Much of it is bordered by 20 foot sound walls that block the view. Not to mention, when you're driving you really can't take time to gaze at people's back yards. On the Frontrunner, I feel a little voyeuristic. I get to peek directly into back yards and indirectly into lives. I suppose you can tell a lot about a family from their back yard. For instance, we just passed a home with a large patio covered with at least 20 eclectic chairs. I imagine the occupants of that home have a large extended family and enjoy visiting with friends. Some yards are filled with play sets and trampolines, obviously the homes of small children. Some still have their Christmas lights up. Some fences are well kept, while others are weathered and in disarray. Some back yards border small, inexpensive homes, but provide space for large "toys" such as boats and snow mobiles. Some lawns are mowed. Some are not. Some are just weeds. Some yards look more like parking lots, with five or six weathered vehicles missing wheels.
There are also plenty of fields near the tracks. Horses, cows, and sheep graze idly. And not far from the fields is a new booming shopping district, built within walking distance of the Farmington train station, fueled by the fact that many people now come and go where the fields used to be. I value progress, but I enjoy the fields more.
I have to admit, the view from Frontrunner is a bit skewed. The homes are predominantly low- to middle-class. The upper class doesn't live around here. They wouldn't build in these areas. There's a large number of trailer homes next to the tracks. Although, we just passed a fairly nice subdivision. One home even had a swimming pool, and I mean a fancy in-ground pool, not one of those plastic above-ground types. I'm sure this subdivision was built before the train. I bet they weren't happy when the tracks were laid for Frontrunner.
Some communities have built parks near the tracks, to act as a sort of buffer between homes and the train. Some homes have planted a line of trees to obscure the view, both into the yard and out. Some don't care that their back yards are exposed to public criticism. Others , I'm sure, are horrified.
For most of us, the idea of a stranger seeing into our yards and into our life might be a bit disturbing. I think we all need buffer zones at times. We need space and privacy. And here I am looking in, probably where I'm unwanted. I feel a bit guilty . . . but fascinated.