The Man and the Herd did some much needed yard work this weekend. The hard freezes that we’re not supposed to get this far south damaged a lot of our trees and even killed some of my favorite tropical bushes. So they cleared out all the dead branches and cut back those that might survive. They also trimmed the big oaks and orange tree. So now I stand out on the lanai and see our neighbors. It makes me feel naked.

We bought this house nearly two years ago and chose it for a reason. It’s much older than I would have liked, but, thankfully, the builders were progressive and most of the house meets today’s building code for hurricane protection (thus its survival through Charley in 2004). But we’ve had to replace nearly all of the appliances already and still need to replace the windows, update the kitchen and bathrooms, resurface the lanai…the list is never-ending. We chose it, though, for the lot. We have the best lot in the neighborhood.

Once you enter the house, you forget you’re surrounded by other people. The back opens to a lanai and then the yard, which looks like it spans for acres. Every house in the neighborhood has “green space” behind it, but none have our kind of space. The open part continues out to a canal and the neighbors on the other side are far beyond, hidden behind trees. The rest of the area is lined by more trees, blocking out the closer houses. So it looks like we have three-times the yard we really do and it’s all hidden, giving us a sense of privacy…or it did. Now there are gaping holes. I’m sure the neighbors really can’t see our lanai, let alone inside our house, but I feel so exposed.

This thought made me think of the first time my sister-in-law, who grew up on the expansive Great Plains where you can literally see for miles, came to visit us when we lived in Atlanta. She complained about the trees lining the highways and said she felt claustrophobic. I didn’t understand and thought it was because I basically grew up on the East Coast, surrounded by trees. When I’m out on the Plains, out in the open like that, I feel so vulnerable. Like whoever is watching could easily see me and get me – there’s nowhere to hide. That’s how I felt standing on the lanai today, so open and visible to everyone.

It made me wonder if this is a writer thing – the need to feel guarded, enclosed, safe. I know many, if not most, writers are introverts like me. We keep to ourselves. We like our privacy. We prefer the safety of being alone or with close friends to the unknown of meeting new people. So do we all prefer a cocoon to open spaces? Did we all grow up curled up in tents made of blankets stretched across our bedrooms or searching for hidey-holes in Grandma’s house? Are there any claustrophobic writers?

I’m sure there are. Like anything else dealing with humanity, we can’t classify us all into a stereotype. But I’m curious now. What do you think? Are you claustrophobic? Do you prefer to be hidden, even at home? Or do you like to be in the middle of wide, open spaces? Do we like hidey-holes because of all the wild and crazy things we can imagine the tiny space to be – like a crate we’re hiding in as a stow-away crossing the Atlantic or a portal leading to a different dimension – or because we like the comfort of the cocoon? I’d love to hear your thoughts….