One of my very favorite things to do is sit outside on my deck – that is, in fact, where I am as I am writing this. Though I’m in the middle of a neighborhood, the backyard is so densely foliated that I’m essentially invisible. Acacia, Eucalyptus, Willow, Pine and other trees keep me shielded from view. One of these trees, a large Acacia, leans over the deck at a precarious angle. It sheds annoying seed pods most of the summer, but also provides lovely afternoon shade. Alas, it’s scheduled to be cut down, as the angle of the lean is reaching the edge of what the laws of physics will support. Afternoon shade will become the responsibility of the smaller trees behind it. The shade won’t be as rich, and will come later in the day, but at least it won’t be raining seed pods.
The deck itself extends the complete length of my garage studio. It’s populated by pots full of jewel toned petunias that grow and bloom with abandon but that don’t play well with others – they’ve all but choked the poor pansies, marigolds and lavender out of the pots. But they take the heat, the rain, the fog, the cold – they just TAKE it, and claim their space and hold their ground and bloom brilliantly where they are planted. If only we all had that sort of resilience.
The morning glories I grew from seedlings are starting to flower. Anybody who knows my sleeping habits knows how useless it is for me to have a plant that blooms in the morning and whose flowers have faded by afternoon. In retrospect, I’d be better suited to moonflowers, as I miss most of the glory. But when I get up to pee at 6am, I peek out the window and am greeting by brilliant red and blue blooms among emerald green leafy vines.
The rightmost railing of my deck is home to a big, prolifically flowering star jasmine vine. Densely populated with tiny white star-shaped blooms, it is a magnet for hummingbirds and honeybees. At night, the sweet heavy scent of the blossoms wafts through the open window and fills my sleeping area with its perfume.
The yard, a rambling, eclectic collection of grasses, wildflowers and fruit trees, grows as nature intends it. The underground stream keeps the water table high, and the entire yard is self-maintaining. The plum tree becomes laden with plump purple fruit at the end of July. Two kinds of apple trees and a pear tree bear fruit most of the summer. The walnut tree has seen better days, but it graces me by dropping a few nuts each fall. The persimmons turn flaming orange in the late fall, and remain on the tree long after the leaves have fallen. Nature’s Christmas ornaments.
Surrounding one side of the property is a blackberry thicket about 30 feet deep. Blackberry thickets are nature’s ultimate home security system. Nothing larger than a small fox can creep through that thorny mass without having its flesh stripped off the bone. You'd have to wear chainmail to get past unscathed - it’s more effective protection than a moat filled with piranha. The downside of the blackberry’s protective nature is that it thinks it owns the place. Left unattended, the bushes would take over the yard and consume the house inside of a year. In consolation, the bushes offer up succulent, sweet, delicious berries in abundance. As with all things, it’s give and take.
People, birds, and miscellaneous four-legged critters enjoy the fruit. The deer love to munch the fallen plums and apples. Birds adore the blackberries (although I don’t enjoy washing the resulting purple bird poop off the deck.). The raccoons will strip the persimmon tree bare if I don’t get to it first. I don’t know what the little grey fox eats. But it loves to come out in the late mornings and sun itself at the edge of the blackberry thicket.
At night, a symphony of crickets and tree frogs provide background music. During the daytime, the soundtrack is a combination of natural and manmade. Birds. Rustling trees, and the neighbor’s collection of wind chimes – the tiny, tinkling ones when the breeze is light and heavy, deep-toned ones when it’s gusty. If the wind is blowing the right way, the voices of children on the nearby school playground can be heard. Sometimes the evening breeze will bring me a muffled high school football game, complete with marching band. The neighbors to my west play music outside some afternoons. They listen to classic rock, which is my favorite. Not all the sounds are soothing; today’s playlist includes the chainsaw and woodchipper symphony in F major .
One of my neighbors has chickens. I can’t see them, but I can hear them. It makes me smile; I have an affinity for chickens. I do not have an affinity for roosters, so I’m happy their menagerie doesn’t include them.
I have a little side yard too that’s kind of a mini-version of the back yard. It’s got its own star jasmine bush and blackberry sentries. Lovely, climbing red rose vines bloom all summer long. My additions include more petunias and morning glories, and snap dragons. There are all manner of leafy vining plants covering the fence – if the fence is even under there any more.
There are big garden spiders that build enormous, intricate round webs suspended by threads strung from one side of the yard to the other (a 20 foot span) and from the ground to a tree limb (8-10 feet). I have no idea how they get these supporting girders strung. But they do it with no building permits, no committee meetings, no unions, no blueprints, and no assistance, using only materials that they shoot out of their butts. If the web gets knocked down, it’s completely remade in 24 hours. The spiders only come out at night. Sometimes I come out after dark with a flashlight and watch them work. If humans could be that single-minded and focused and resourceful, imagine what they could accomplish. I hate spiders, and these spiders are among the creepiest, ugliest varieties I’ve seen. But I have so much respect and admiration for their ingenuity and work ethic that I leave them alone.
I love my place. When I’m away from it, I can’t wait to come back. When I take a ‘vacation’, this is where I want to be. But since I live here, that kinda makes every day its own vacation. There is beautiful, peaceful energy here that is sacred to me and essential to my well-being. I’m protective of this beautiful space and selective about whom I invite in to it. Though I’m only a renter, we’re all nothing more than renters on the planet in the grand scheme of things. I don’t own the property, nor does it own me. We’re all here solely because we want to be. And that’s really the only reason to ever be anywhere.