Category Archives: Backyard

Gratitude Friday

frozen feather

This post started as a mashup of The Little Bliss List and Joy Jam, and as such is meant to celebrate: the little things that brought me hope and happiness this week, the sweet stuff of life, those small gifts that brought me joy this week. By sharing them, I not only make public my gratitude, but maybe also help you notice your own good stuff and send some positive energy out into the world.

1. Roasted Vegetables. I could eat roasted brussel sprouts every day of of the week. I like them even more than french fries.

2. Responses to a Cultivating Courage dare. The goal was to ask 5-10 people our strengths, gifts, superpower and to be able to hear, accept, allow their response, to take the compliment instead of brushing it off or shutting down. As in the last time I did this, I loved the responses I got, was so grateful for the people who took the time to answer, to make the offering. It’s such a powerful exercise to hear how other people see me (and they only tell you the good stuff).

3. Walking with the dogs. It’s been nice to get back to our routine. Over Winter Break, with both Eric and I off work, all four of us would go, and I love that, but there’s also something great about just me and the dogs. It is a beautiful world out there, and I love having a reason to go see it, to walk around in it and look, to be.

4. My health. A very nasty crud or two, along with a few varieties of the plague are out there this season. I am trying really, really hard not to judge, not to get frustrated or irritated when people who have the option of paid sick leave don’t stay home and get well, when they risk infecting other people with the same thing that’s making them feel so crappy, how that makes what is going around continue to go round and round. Instead, I shift my focus to being grateful for my continued good health, and to sending anyone who is sick healing vibes and compassion, and a wish that they know it’s okay to take care of themselves, that for most of them no one will die if they didn’t go to work for a few days–and I’m also washing my hands like a mad woman.

5. Videos of my dogs. I love being able to see Sam as a puppy, to watch Obi and Dexter play (even though it makes me sad too).

Here’s one of Dexter, rolling in the grass, one of his favorite things, growling and grunting like a pig.

Bonus Joy: Dexter is still here, still doing well. Just a bit ago, when I went out to clean up the backyard, he brought a ball for me to throw, and we played fetch for a bit. He and I have spent hundreds of hours this exact same way over the last 9.5 years.

The beam of sunlight in this picture from one of our walks this week makes him look like a unicorn.

Unicorn Dex

P.S. I remember back when I was so excited anyone read my blog, that I took a picture of my stats page when I hit 2000 views. At some point today or tomorrow, it will reach 50,000. I can barely wrap my mind around that number. All I know is that I have the kindest and gentlest readers, and I bow deeply and with such gratitude to each and every one of you who took the time to show up. Thank you.

The importance of play

When you know for sure your time together is limited, you take every opportunity to be present, to slow down and notice, to really see and to connect, and when one of you is a dog, to play. I raked leaves this morning, and one pile was “D-constructed” four times by Dexter and his favorite toy, a stuffed Cattle Dog named Little D, or Mini D.

Just to be clear, this was a two dog job, (three, if you count Little D).

Something Good

1. Before and after of a mess. I realize that this is really only something good for me, but I still wanted to share it.

before

after

2. Got my shirt! It fits and it makes me smile.

3. Peonies. I don’t know why, but I am obsessed with them right now. I am planting at least three or four bushes when we redo our front yard so I can have them on my writing desk the whole season.

4. Obi’s rose bloomed. I’m not sure what kind of rose bush this is, but the smell and color is intense, and each bud has about 1000 petals. It grows next to one of Obi’s favorite places in the yard, by the back fence in a spot where he could see both the front and the back.

In the last months that he was alive, every time a new bloom would burst, I’d wonder which would last longer, the rose or Obi. I took a picture of him next to that rosebush during those last nine months that ended up being the picture I posted on Facebook the morning he died. Maybe it’s because I’ve been spending so much time in the backyard lately, but I have been missing that boy like crazy.

5. I can no longer, another great post from Christa at Carry it Forward.

6. The (Fearless) Love Essays by Judy Clement Wall. They’re here, they’re here! I can’t wait to read my copy. And Judy so wants them read, she’s offering them at variable pricing ($7 suggested), so if you can’t pay, you can still download a copy–because that’s how she rolls!

7. An excerpt from Patti Digh’s Commencement Address at Guilford College:

Carol Sanders…writes… “Follow the idea that calls you. As you start on your own life’s passage, follow the idea that makes you wake in the morning without an alarm, that calls you to scribble ideas on napkins and scrap paper and to lose all sense of time, that makes your heart beat faster at every corner with the endless possibilities.”

Yes, please!

8. Cultivate Your Play Ethic by Hannah Kane on Scoutie Girl.

9. Becoming the Person You Were Meant to Be: Where to Start by Anne Lamott. One of my favorite quotes from this is “We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be.” Amen.

10. The 3 Most Important Questions by Vishen Lakhiani. Holy crap, this is gooooood. Watch it, do the practice, do it now.

11. Summer Manifesto. I love this idea, want to write one–way better idea than my summer to-do list.

12. 27 DOs + DON’Ts for being a badass woman from Justine Musk. Listen to this woman, she’s a badass.

13. Call Your Girlfriend Robyn/Erato cover by Lennon & Maisy Stella. I loved the original version of this song, but I loooove these girls. They were on the Today Show, or some similar morning show performing this week. I want them to come to my house and sing me to sleep every night.

14. Infusing Play into Mundane Tasks from Leo Babauta at Zen Habits. I like the way he thinks.

15. Joan Didion on Self-Respect on Brain Pickings.

16. A Girl and Her Room: Portraits of Teenage Girls’ Inner Worlds Through Their Bedroom Interiors on Brain Pickings.

17. This quote from Geneen Roth:

For some reason, we are truly convinced that if we criticize ourselves, the criticism will lead to change. If we are harsh, we believe we will end up being kind. If we shame ourselves, we believe we end up loving ourselves. It has never been true, not for a moment, that shame leads to love. Only love leads to love.

Amen.

18. Good advice for those attending the World Domination Summit with me (and hundreds of other people) in July.

  • A Story of Yes, from Andrea Scher on Superhero Journal, posted last year but still relevant, (she’ll be presenting again this year).

19. Live the Questions: Jacqueline Novogratz’s Advice to Graduates. Another commencement speech, another post from Brain Pickings.

20. Rilke on Embracing Uncertainty and Living the Questions on Brain Pickings.  Sorry for yet another, but this site was on fire this week.

21. Message from your Inner Pilot Light: When you choose to numb out – whether you numb out with TV, sugar, alcohol, drugs, smoking, or busyness – you dim my light. When you’re brave enough to face the truth, you’ll feel me glowing in the center of your chest, warm, steady, increasing in strength. Are you willing to face the truth without numbing out? With me, you’re safe to face anything. I’m right here.

22. A special offer from Susannah Conway. You already know how much I love this book, this woman, and this is a really great offer from her. Class starts tomorrow, so there’s still time!

22. Telling True Stories with Laurie Wagner, class starts on June 18th. I took the first round of this class, and highly and wholeheartedly recommend it.

Bonus something good: As someone who lived this era (the 80s) and loves a good musical almost more than anything, if this movie works, it will be so friggin’ awesome!

An Ode to the Backyard

the sky over my backyard

This post is Judy Clement Wall’s fault. A little over a week ago, on her Zebra Sounds blog, she wrote a post that was an ode to hiking. In a related post a few days later on her A Human Thing blog, she wrote about places of solace, and asked readers to share theirs in the comments. This led to a conversation between Judy and I in the comment thread about my love for the backyard, where I said “someone should write an ode to the backyard” and she replied “you should.”

Okay.

sam and dex in the backyard

An Ode to the Backyard

My whole life, from the very first house I remember living in (we moved there when I was still a baby), the backyard has been a place of solace. I find comfort and relief there, safety and peace. Almost everywhere I have ever lived, the backyard has been my favorite spot.

According to me, a good yard needs four things:

  • Lots of green stuff, (bushes and trees and grass and fruits and vegetables and flowers and at least one Lilac)
  • A privacy fence
  • Chairs and a good mix of sun/shade for sitting
  • Dogs

obi (oh how I miss that boy) and dexter in the backyard

The first yard I remember was magic. We lived in a small house (by today’s standards, but the same size as the one I live in now) with a huge yard, almost a full acre. In fact, the yard was so big that when my mom and dad sold that house over twenty years later, they sold the “garden” as a separate lot and someone built a house on it.

I remember a huge cherry tree, plums, lilacs, a weeping willow, maples, birch, pine and fir, and a hazelnut. When I was in the second grade, a forester visited our class and gave us all Douglas Fir seedlings. I planted mine in the corner of our yard, years later buried my hamster underneath it (apparently my second hamster, my dad informed me a few years ago–the first one had died and he’d replaced it because he knew I’d be upset). The last time I saw that tree, it had grown to over 25 feet tall, and made me feel small, old and so young all at the same time.

I remember pink roses, purple irises, tiger lilies, bluebells, and in the garden raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries. There was a long slopped hill that we attempted to sled on when it snowed (which wasn’t often or much where we were in Oregon), and a long, wide field of grass below that saw many a football and baseball game. Our patio was a big enough stretch of concrete for both a basketball hoop and rollerskating. There was a family of Quail that lived in our backyard, came back year after year to have their babies, protected from the neighborhood cats by my dad. Quail babies are still one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen in my life, running in a line behind their Mama.

I remember my favorite spot, under the biggest maple tree. I would take a book and my green blanket and sit for hours under that tree. When I looked up, this is what I saw:

it was magic, it was medicine

Over the years, Eric and I have shared a few backyards, (we moved 12 times in the first 10 years we were married).

our very first backyard

this one was so small, I “mowed the lawn” with a pair of grass clippers

The backyard we have now, at the house we’ve lived in for 12 years, where all of our dogs have lived, is one of my favorites. When we were looking, we kept telling our realtor how important the yard was to us, that we planned on getting dogs, that it was in fact the whole reason we were looking for a new place (our condo had a patio but no real yard), but I don’t think she really believed us until we picked the one we would buy. She kept showing us nicer houses with little to no yard. When we picked this one, she said “I guess you were really serious about the yard being more important.”

obi at six months old, the first boy to enjoy our yard. i’d give just about anything to see him back there again…

the current residents, “helping” the mom garden

why the backyard needs grass

We live just a block away from an elementary school, so during the day, while they are at recess, our backyard fills with the sound of kids playing.

Because our neighborhood was built in the early 60s, there are lots of mature trees. In the early morning, this time of year, the sky is filled with bird song.

the view from my chair

succulent garden on the back step

There’s a Jeb Loy Nichols song called “Heaven Right Here” that is its own ode to the backyard.

So I’ll just take my time
And relax my mind
So I’ll stop – slow down
Watch the sun go down

Come on over to my yard
Sit around and let your troubles all disappear
Come on over to my yard
‘Cause right now heaven’s right here

raised beds, lilacs along the fence, a gifted garden of flowers, and a chipmunk we adopted after he was abandoned by the previous owners

sweet boy tomato plant

Maybe it’s because there is farming in my blood, encoded in my DNA, that makes me want to pick, plant, dig, and tend the earth, and this gives me a place to do so.

Maybe it’s because I love dogs and they love being in the yard, playing and lounging, rolling in the grass and chasing squirrels and barking and peeing on stuff.

Maybe it’s because I love to read and it’s a quiet, comfortable place to do so.

Maybe it’s because I am an introvert who loves solitude, being alone, but also loves nature, would rather be outside and barefoot.

Whatever the reason(s), I love a good backyard. It’s a place to retreat, to rest and relax, to read, to play, to listen, to be calm and still and quiet. It is my place of solace, magic, medicine, a living meditation on the preciousness of life.