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Thursday, April 09, 2009


My son will be ten in a few days. As if to drive the point home, he has been listening to Metallica and wearing black nail polish. His sister meanwhile has been teaching me to play poker, which only goes to reinforce the fact that we are in a new phase of family life. I thought about that last weekend as I dug up the flagstones in our tiny back yard and found traces of sand from a long discarded sandbox.

Our yard has had several transformations in the ten and a half years we have lived here. When we first moved in, it was very shady, over-run with ivy of all sorts, and contained a few small animal carcasses, confirming my suspicion that no one had gardened there for years, though the random tulip that popped up in the spring bore witness to the fact that someone once had. Pregnant with my son, I ripped up the weeds and molded the first few feet of land I’ve ever owned into a tidy little shade garden, full of hosta, fern, and bleeding hearts. The shade grass I planted never took, and the turtle sandbox we put in the corner didn’t get used as much as we expected, though my son insisted we keep until it was full of mud and bugs. When the sandbox was finally hosed out and given away, I decided to built a patio and used the remaining sand to level the flagstones. It was back breaking work, I remember, which I did myself because we couldn’t afford to hire someone who knew what they were doing. I also collected as many of the flagstones as possible from a distant friend who bought her property with a random pile of stone strewn on the edge. The stones weighed down the Ford, possibly contributing to its premature demise during my son’s last year of nursery school. I was very proud of that patio, even though it wasn’t quite even, and the stones didn’t match.

Our yard is testament to the fact that nothing stays the same. We got new neighbors a few years back who trimmed their overgrown Mulberry enough so the front of the yard was suddenly sunny. (In the trimming process, a branch fell in our yard, and a few of our flagstones got broken.) That corresponded with the closing of our community garden, so we rescued some raspberries and asparagus and planted them where the striped hosta had been. Last summer the same Mulberry fell across our yard on a clear day, landing on what is now a small forest of raspberry shrubs and reminding me how unpredictable life is. Our partly shady garden was now full sun, so in the fall, I gave away most of the remaining shade plants, which are now popping up in other people’s yards. We never ate on the patio as much as I had hoped, and I’m sure we won’t in the sun, so I’m ripping up the stones—with my son’s help—to finally plant some tomatoes and basil. In the course of digging, I’ve come across the sand, the already decomposing roots of the Mulberry, and the small bone of an animal that most likely died before we arrived. My son likes the digging and is proud that he can lift the flagstone. Both he and the garden remind me that life is constantly changing, even if I don’t see the changes as dramatically in myself. I put my shovel to my little piece of land, but it’s an illusion that I control it. My garden, like my son, has a life of its own, and it’s a wonder to watch it unfold.


Blogger naturalmom said...

Beautiful and true.

9:55 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...


2:10 AM  

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