POV: Backyards.

POV ("point of view") is a series that addresses many of the same themes covered in my Equals Record column: growing up, saying yes to adventure, learning to embrace a quarter-life crisis. Each POV entry will include a photograph and a short reflection based on what’s pictured. While my previous column focused largely on ideas, POV will focus on moments - glimpses, glances, tiny stories.

Friday night, I drove with eight friends into the Catskills. We reserved a van. Stocked a rented house with apples and bread and marshmallows and hot dogs. Packed books and cameras and drawing pencils. A croquet bat. A guitar.

None of us had ever been to the town we were staying in. None of us had ever heard of it. That was better, I thought. It was new.

We spent three days building fires, crunching through leaves, eating breakfasts on our sunny back stairs. The boys whittled sticks; we climbed trees. I spent a portion of one morning studying orange and yellow-green leaves through the crocheted folds of a hammock in the woods. 

Sunday afternoon, five of us packed a bag and trekked into the forest behind the house. We hiked until we found a leafy clearing shaded by trees, littered with pinecones and mushrooms, and streaked in sunlight. “No one could ever find us here,” I said to Lily. 

We felt wholly, perfectly hidden. 

Thirty minutes later, a jogger ran by, breathing loudly. We stared.

On our way back, we stumbled on a yellow house that seemed to appear out of nowhere. A woman was standing outside on the phone, pointing at us, the look on her face a mixture of curiosity and panic. I couldn’t blame her. We looked cultish: Erik, leading our procession, strummed a guitar; Yair had a towel draped over his head; Luke wore a cowboy hat. And then there was me, in back, in a neon-pink poncho and giant sunglasses, gingerly stepping over the roots of trees in a pair of men’s hiking boots.

“We’re lost!” I called. 

“You really should be careful,” the woman said, loosening a bit as we descended from what we thought was isolated wilderness. “There are people with shotguns around here. You’re walking through their backyards.”

When I was little, it seemed the outside world was contained in the space surrounding our home. Too young to travel alone, too young to venture even across the street, I would spend hours playing with our pet rabbit under tangerine trees; singing songs to the line of ants under our wooden side fence; crushing rose petals under the wheels of my bike, trying to make perfume.

As I grew older, the world expanded beyond tangerine trees and rose bushes, but sometimes, even as an adult, it still feels fenced-in. 

A few weeks ago, sitting in Central Park, a friend and I discussed the obstacles that stand in the way of traveling - of getting out: it’s expensive, of course, and there are jobs and apartments and responsibilities to consider. We’re lucky, we decided, that we live in a city that’s never boring. If we have to be in one place, at least it’s here.

It was key, we thought, to keep seeing the city - our home - the way an explorer, or a tourist, might. If we reminded ourselves of its corners and crevices, its constant newness, we’d never run out of things to be excited about. 

In our own backyards - literal or otherwise - there are surprises, thrills, and endless discoveries, if you keep your eyes open.


One scorching afternoon last summer, I met my friend Davey in Williamsburg for coffee. Unable to decide where to settle, we wandered Kent Avenue, where we stumbled on a tea room, hidden behind enormous wooden doors. “I’ve never seen this before,” I said, though I lived minutes away. 

Inside, an elderly man played bongos and hummed a song by LCD Soundsystem. A group of teenagers sat clustered in the corner, drawing pictures. Later, I’d learn they were sketching tattoo ideas - there was a young Chinese woman in the back, with a needle in hand. “Tattoos free today!” said our waiter.

We sat on the floor, drinking tea so sweet our teeth throbbed. When we stood up to leave, I realized I’d forgotten we were in Williamsburg, in Brooklyn, in New York City. I felt we’d left home, that we'd been in another world; still, when we pushed open the heavy wooden doors, we resurfaced onto Kent Avenue, our sun-streaked backyard, blinking. 

You can find my previous POV entries, here, and the archive for my personal essay column on the Equals Record, hereThank you so much for your support! Photo by Takiri Nia.


  1. PEOPLE'S BACKYARDS. That's amazing. How I hope to have such a backyard one day.

  2. I feel like I say this a lot - but this is one of my favorites. What a brilliant reminder to keep exploring my backyard...

  3. hi shoko! NYC is such an amazing backyard - one of my favorite things about living there was you could be a tourist any day! I've been trying to bring that mentality along with me to New Orleans. Sounds like a wonderful weekend trip xx

  4. Love this. Viewing my home - and current home state - as a traveler would has been one of my chief goals in life since I returned from studying abroad. Sounds like a beautiful weekend; also, I'm glad you didn't get shot! =P

  5. inspired and wonderful as always.

  6. Thank you all so much!

    Rachel, I am, too!

    Kaitlin, it's so lovely to hear from you!!

  7. Another amazing post, Shoko! The last bit? About looking at your home as a tourist? Totally touched a chord within me.

  8. You have such a fine eye for capturing and documenting these extraordinary moments. Lovely!

  9. Dee, that's so nice to hear.

    Raquel, thank you!

  10. Holy crap! Shotguns! That's insane.

    That sounds like so much fun to go wandering around and explore the outdoors. I miss the outdoors.

  11. Since 'outdoors' has an "s" at the end, it must be plural. So how many outdoors are there? I can't sleep.



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