Monday, April 03, 2006


Outside the window tufts and scraped earth, and undefined boundaries -- raw, with promise but so much work ahead to make it ours.

Inside, I am home sick. And, windowstaring, sick at the prospect of merely coaxing this physical space into something natural and safe for my children.

Last fall the task seemed obvious, immediate: clear the leaves off the newly filled leachfield before the snows came, in the hopes that a cleared yard would better weather the winter. Foresight would have kept me from merely pushing the leaves to the periphery.

Now it is too late.

The lawn grows tiny tufts of grass among wide swaths of dirt, goes half-raked at a time. The woods remain inaccessible, indefined, their boundaries piled high with last year's brush and soggy leaves.

The road and its surrounding spaces are all torn up from a plow operator that merely shrugged off our concern about the plans underneath. "You gotta put the snow somewhere," and I'm not the type to push harder against what I kow in my heart to be bad business. Now, along the long driveway, dirt mounds sulk among shattered shrubbery, adding insult to injury, laughing in the face of our desire for trim and organic environs.

Small garden spaces up against the house taunt me with their easy management, their clean boundaries, their rock borders and slate paths.

The task of making woods and lawn merge together seamlessly becomes herculean.

When I was a kid there were two yards, front and back. Also a hidden circle of drt behind the rhododendrons of our traffic circle driveway. All were secluded, separated from each other and the rest of the world -- by high crisscross fence, or the rock ledges that rose into the wilderness between our house and the one behind.

None were playspaces, really. Sure, we threw balls against those tilted screen in t-ball season on the flat front, threw frisbees into the hurricane there one year. But we were indoor children, bookish and clumsy. Outside was for going places, not being. The playground structure's swings were for contemplation, not play. It is telling that when I was too restless in the house, my mother would threaten to make me run around the block, rather than just expend my energy in outdoor play.

We planted bulbs one year, I remember -- the first, when we had just moved from a more suburban, less wild and more public lawn two towns over. My father and I on our knees on Saturdays in new mulch, trowels and soil in our hands, covering the earth, moving on sideways along the inner fence.

The squirrels came and dug them up. Years later, I would write my first poem about the experience. In the decades afterwards, landscapers came throughout the season, unexpected and in force, and sweep through the yard like a flood, leaving it trimmed, raked, and preserved, and seemingly inacessible as a living room couch under plastic.

I want my children to see the yard as endless, like my wife's childhood spaces, the ones that stretched forever into the cowfields and tilled cornrows, the woods and the stream, the dirt road almost safe enoug to walk unaccompanied by adult hands. I want them to feel safe in the outdoors, to own the world of sky and grass and feel like it has meanings both of itself and other, deeper meanings when they are in it. I want them to have hiding places, too. But that's a thought for another day.

The beaver pond and the trails behind are wonderful, and I hope forever think of them as extensions of our spaces, but they are ours to share with the universe, not ours to protect and build for the future. I do not want to terraform, or make artificial. But I want to make this house a place of comfort beyond its walls.

Oh, for a thousand hours and a place to put the waste. Oh, for a mind that can think in whole spaces, and plan slowly a lifetime of acreage management and maintenance. Oh, for a yard that spreads forever, effortlessly, into the world.

Oh, for a wellspace, inside and out, that could make better sense of word or world.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:00 PM |

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