Monday, March 4, 2013

Stopping In My Tracks

On Saturday mornings my daughter has a gymnastics class that has become part of our weekly ritual.  We go and sit in the bleachers with our coffee while she learns to somersault, walk backwards on a beam, and perfect the art of making her parents freak out every time she slips.  This is good practice for all of us, I’m sure.  Each week she gets a little more comfortable and a little more coordinated than she was before.  She is growing incrementally and the change is so slight it is hard for someone to see it.  But once in a while she will say or do something that (both literally and metaphorically) stops me in my tracks and I will see her in a new way.  The child I once saw as merely a reflection of her parents has somehow trasformred into a thinking, opinionated, humorous little girl. These changes and these moments are worth remembering.  That’s an easy thing to write and probably an easier thing to just read over.  But these moments in our lives really are worth remembering.     

I normally drive by myself to gymnastics so that I can go home afterwards and start my yard work while the girls do the things that girls like to do when they don’t like to garden.  This past Saturday, as I drove back to our house, I was struck by how swiftly the signs of spring had come to Sacramento.  Many of our trees are in flower, daffodils are nearly finished blooming, and the sun is warm.  I had noticed these changes a little and even snapped a few photos of trees in bloom last month.  But then, just like with my daughter, I saw something that stopped me in my tracks . . . this time my car's tracks.  I actually said, “Wow” out loud when I saw this:   

This is on the corner of a very busy street in town and the entire front yard is walled in by the white-washed stucco wall.  I have driven by this house a thousand times and I have never noticed it before.  I felt lucky to have noticed it that day and I thought it would be worth remembering so I pulled over and took a few pictures with my phone. 

Although the picture above was worth posting on its own merit, I was inspired to put fingers to keyboard this morning because a third thing happened to me that stopped me in my tracks.  Clearly, I am in a time and place in my life where I am feeling compelled to stop and take note of what is going on.  This third event happened to be an e-mail I received.  I have infrequently written about the Library of Congress' weekly e-mail column called American Life in Poetry.  This week's poem has a gardening theme so I think it is appropriate to be shared here and I hope that it finds you in a place where you can stop and consider why we garden and what that says about your life as it did for me this morning: 

Cement Backyard

My father had our yard cemented over.
He couldn’t tell a flower from a weed.
The neighbors let their backyards run to clover
and some grew dappled gardens from a seed,

but he preferred cement to rampant green.
Lushness reeked of anarchy’s profusion.
Better to tamp the wildness down, unseen,
than tolerate its careless brash intrusion.

The grass interred, he felt well satisfied:
his first house, and he took an owner’s pride,
surveying the uniform, cemented yard.
Just so, he labored to cement his heart.

-Lynne Sharon Schwartz


  1. I'm glad you noticed the flowering trees along the wall and took a photo. I'm going to hold that beautiful image in my imagination until spring gets here. -Jean

    1. Jean, I'm glad my photo can provide you with a little bit of spring to tide you over! May the spring sun warm your corner of the world soon!

  2. Wow is right! That picture is just beautiful. I can imagine that, when not in bloom, one could easily pass by this house without a second thought. But what a gorgeous display when in bloom! The poem was quite sad. I do think gardening opens our hearts. That poor little girl never saw a butterfly in her yard!

    1. Yes, all those trees must just blend into the background when they turn green. I think it's probably worth it for the home owner though. I'm thankful for it anyway!

  3. Chad, the ephemera of a cherry blossom is such an apt metaphor for the changes in a child: beautiful, miraculous, awe-inspiring, and then on to the next new thing. I just remarked to my wife the other night about how I never would have thought so much of parenting is being nostalgic for something that occurred just a short while ago. Without a doubt, children are the most important things we garden.

    Times of transition and upheaval can be so stressful and demanding. Good on you, brother, for keeping your heart 'uncemented.'

    1. Calvin, I couldn't agree more about the importance of "growing our children". It's rewarding beyond all measure. And the best part is that you don't need to send off a soil sample to find out what is wrong because our kids are more than capable of letting us know that they have a donut deficiency or that they need another injection of juice box. And, of course, you get four seasons of interest with kids.

  4. That is a 'wow' prayer for sure. It must be remarkable in person as the photo is quite a wondrous statement. The days of watching your young children grow into their own little people is fascinating and so much fun. I'm glad you're taking the time to take notice of the wonders of it ... it's a time like no other.