文章来源：俞孔坚. 儿时的空间[J].景观设计学, 2012(2):22-25.
院子里面有个小池塘，实际上是个小水坑，四方形，约两米见方。很奇怪的是，那池塘四季不枯不溢，下雨时，院子里的水会往里面排；干旱天需要用水浇地时，源源不断的水就会从石缝中流出。里面还栖息着一条大黄鳝，它总在石缝中躲藏。夏天时，我常常在小水坑边流连，蹲在池边看水里的天空倒影和小鱼在石块间来回穿梭。黄鳝最有意思，只 要你屏住呼气，静静呆上一段时间，它那金黄色带有黑斑的头便会慢慢从石缝中探出，察觉没有动静之后，会慢慢把身子也伸出来，当突然发现有人时，便急速将头缩回洞中。妈妈说，那黄鳝已经成精了，我常常有些害怕。终于有一天，早知水池有条大黄鳝的堂兄拿了个铁钩子，上面挂了条蚯蚓，将黄鳝从石缝中引出来，上钩后便从石缝中把它使劲拖出 来，宰杀了，炒了吃掉了。我因此悲伤了好久，那可怖的景象还常出现在梦魇中。
My Childhood Space
Every time I read Mr. Lu Xun’s article From Baicao Garden to Sanwei Private School I would think of the places where I spent my childhood. The courtyard of our old house was my favorite place. The courtyard was only some 300 square meters, but I found it immense at the time. The surrounding walls were higher than me, made of rammed earth with bricks, stones, tiles and even white shells that I often dug out and played with. The top of the walls were covered by straws that had been secured by some earth to protect it from the rains. Wild weeds grew up there — I guessed that they were probably what people called “fence-sitters.” I liked it most when it snowed. Flakes accumulated on top of the walls, and the melted snow would flow down along the straws, freezing into ice in the evening. In the morning after I got up, I would knock them down with a twig and eat them as if they were sugar candy. The wall on the east was covered with evergreen climbing figs, or “manglietia” as the grownups might have called them. On sunny mornings, particularly in winter and spring, my neighbors, young and old, would bring their breakfast of rice congee or corn paste, and gather outside the eastern wall, squatting or standing, chatting while sipping their liquid meal in the bowls. Once in a while, someone might bite the pickled radish with a crisp sound. People talked about everything there. I got to know the world events, village happenings and historical stories largely from them. Afterward, as people’s commune dissolved, villagers got their plots of lands and worked separately. With different work schedules, such morning gatherings would not be seen again. Meanwhile, I was growing up.
The courtyard was divided by a gravel slope into two parts, with the southern half 30 centimeters higher than the northern side. The height difference might not be significant, but it separated two completely different worlds. The highland was used to plant flax. The field was so dense that toads and snakes could often be seen there, and thus a forbidden area for me until autumn, after the flax had been harvested. My mother would rip off the fibers from the stalks to make ropes, leaving behind the white part of piths on the field. At the sight of this, I would get excited. Recalling them now, I think they were more like an art installation. The piths could be used to make all kinds of toys; often we made these spinning spears that would whirl when pushed up and down. The flat land in the north was turned into furrows of vegetables, with only a few of narrow ditches that also served as access. Different kinds of vegetables were alternate according to the seasons; my father would never leave any inch of land idle. As seasons changed, the land was awash with different hues of green, but occasionally there might also be yellow mustard flowers, white flowers of garlic chives, and orange lily flowers… on sunny days, bees would buzz around, and butterflies would flutter by. The vegetables grew so fast we had to share the surplus with our neighbors. Every five days there would be a market, and my father would pick the best produce to sell at the fair. You see, the land could be so abundant and beautiful!
The fruits of manglietia looked like figs, light green in color but not edible. If you picked them off, a milky juice would ooze from the cut, and it was so sticky your fingers would be glued together. If you broke the sponge-like shell, you would find numerous tiny balls, pinky purple, on the wall of the empty cavity. I found it so weird and wonderful when I was a kid. It was only after I went to college that I learned that these balls were called “hypanthium”, and the fruit of manglietia was a kind of “syconium.” The most unforgettable thing was the insect living in a bucket-shaped nest on the branch deep in the vines of the manglietia. If you removed the branch together with the nest, the winged insect would follow its “house” buzzing in and out as no one was around. This fascinating image has remained clearly in my mind, even now. There were many more similar wonders discovered in that courtyard. These mysteries and puzzles intrigued me until I went to college.
In the courtyard there was a small pond. Actually, it was just a small rectangle pit, its surface area only about two square meters. The strange thing was that, it never dried up nor overflowed. When it rained, water discharged into the pit; while when there was a drought, water would flow out from the joints of stones. There used to be a big finless eel hiding among the stones. In summertime, I would walk around, or squat by the pond, looking at the reflection of the sky in the water or the small fishes swimming between the stones. The eel was the most interesting one. If you held your breath and stayed still for a period of time, its gold and black-specked head would start poking out slowly from between the stones. If it felt safe, it would stick out its neck also, again slowly. But if it found someone nearby, it would retreat into its hole rapidly. My mother said the eel might have become a demon, so I felt a little bit frightened sometimes. One day my cousin, who had long known about the eel, lured it out of the hole with a bait of an earthworm, caught it on the hook, killed it, cooked it and then ate it. I was sad about its death for quite a long time, during which I often saw the horrible scene in my dreams.
Nearby the water pit stood a palm tree which, at that time, looked so tall to me. At the beginning of each spring, my father would cut off the skins of the palm and made a raincoat. Once peeled off, the palm appeared to be taller, exposing the tender white trunk with circles like the wrinkles on the neck of a baby. But I was very curious why the trunk never got thicker. When I was at college, I learnt that the palms were monocotyledon. I loved the flowers of the palm most. When spring turns into summer, they would squeeze out of the sheath, bursting out like small hands in jasmine-colored “gloves”. Before the flowers unfold, we would tear off the “gloves” to find the yellowish millet-shaped beads suppressed in the pod. They made the best “bullets” for our games. So every time when I saw the palm flowers were getting out of their sheaths, I would get excited, anxious to secure the weapon before the other kids. For this purpose, I learned to climb a tree, and palms were among the most difficult ones to climb. My pants would sure get torn, so did my skin and flesh sometimes. A severe reprimand would follow from my mother. But I just could not stop it. My childhood passed quickly in this manner, in an endless battle between that which is forbidden and exhilarating.
Eventually, a three-storied tile-roofed house was built in the courtyard. Our house became so spacious, and I did not need to share my father’s bed any more. However, the courtyard, where I spent my childhood and which brought me so much fun and so many memories, was gone forever! Fortunately, my understanding of the child’s realm did not disappear: curiosity and exploration, naivety and learning, interaction and solitude, awe and passion, forbidden and pursuing… human natures revealed themselves here, allowing one to mature in time, and as a space to enact each one’s mysterious and thrilling journey to adulthood. I am grateful I had such an activity space in my childhood.