The World in Our Backyard

The house is quiet, for the most part. Olive Oil is sleeping contentedly on the bed in the other room. I’m sitting at the desk, tapping the keys. There’s a slight hum coming from the computer. The outdoors is making much more chatter than inside our walls.

Outside, blue jays jeer and robins whistle and sparrows trill. An airplane drones overhead and a lawn mower whirrs off in the distance. From my chair, I can see out into the backyard, where clothes are hanging in the light breeze and a chipmunk ducks in and out of a stack of firewood. The sun was persistent enough to break through the heavy cloud cover for sparse moments this morning, but not now. Now, the grey sky makes it seem cooler than it actually is outside, more like April than the end of May.

After work one evening this week I went out with a rake and a pair of garden gloves to redeem a section of the backyard from the damp of collected leaves and pine needles. I removed sticks from our garden beds and gave our blueberry bush some breathing room. I wrenched weeds from the ground, and thought about something I’d heard twice this week from two different sources: weeds are just plants that are in the wrong spot. 

There’s a whole world in our backyard and I am reminded of it every time I bend down to the ground: with twisting worms and busy beetles and a few slugs hugging the wet tarp I was using to move leaves up to the back. Each time I hiked up to empty my load of debris into our ever-growing heap of yard waste, I gingerly stepped around the evidence of a larger visitor — my guess, a black bear who lumbered through one evening when we were away. Perhaps we’ll see him another day.

Our backyard is an evolution, one I’ve written about before. It’s wholly transformed from what it looked like when we first moved in. Each year, we make a little more progress, create a little more space, tame a little more wild.

And inside our house is much the same. Although grad school has cut down on our project time, our house becomes a little more like home with each new Saturday we spend spackling, grouting, and painting. With each tile and floor board and light fixture we choose, our house becomes a little more ours. But what’s it all for? Why do we bother?

Because it is ours to care for. Because it is ours to live life in. Because it is ours to share. 

We are grateful for what we’ve been given, what life has allotted us. We don’t take it lightly, that we have a home on a quiet street where our neighbors wave as pass by. We don’t take it lightly, that we are leaving a mark, on the house, on the yard, on this patch of earth. This is where we live our lives, where we take care of each other, where we wash and eat and sleep and dream. This is where we build peace and rest and comfort. And then we share it, as best we can.

In all the obvious ways, we have shared our house by letting others enter and stay, by feeding them and giving them rest, by laughing and supporting each other. But we are also sharing this home with those blue jays and robins and sparrows, that fidgety chipmunk, the worms and beetles and slugs, the black bear we haven’t seen yet this summer … And we’re sharing this home with our oak trees and maples, the rhododendrons and azaleas bursting with pink, the grass and the weeds and that bleeding heart that refuses to give up.

There’s a whole world in our backyard and I’m lucky to be a part of it. 

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