Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Piece By Piece

I don’t know what I’m doing anymore.  I don’t have any grand plans.  I don’t even have simple plans.  Every Saturday morning I trudge out to the shed, pull out the lawn mower and get started mowing.  It seems like it takes all day.  It really takes about 90 minutes.  But the chore of mowing the lawn is taking up too much of my mental time.  By the time I am finished I feel a little bit defeated and quite a bit overwhelmed.  I don’t know where to start.  What can I do to make this easier?  What can I do to transform this place into the Eden I found so easy to imagine when we first toured this house a few months ago? 

My new back yard is very nearly a green blank slate.

My wife has been encouraging me to hire someone to mow the lawn – at least for the summer so I can focus on the things I enjoy like planting trees, putting in pathways, and creating borders.  But I have resisted out of stubbornness.  I tell myself “I don’t want to pay someone to do what I can do for free.”  And yet I don’t think twice about paying to have someone change the oil in my car.  Surely, if I was going to have to surrender my man card for paying someone to mow my own lawn the Man card Defense Authority Department (McDAD) would have already taken it away for not changing my own oil filter, right? 

I have also resisted hiring someone to mow my lawn because part of me begrudgingly knows that this sort of angst is a necessary part of my assimilation with the new house.  This is part of the “just live with it for awhile” strategy that I know to be good advice.  It’s just that it has been harder and more discouraging than I imagined it would be.  I have missed the satisfaction that comes with creating a new bed.  I have missed the creative spark that flares up when you finally think of the perfect plant for the perfect spot.  I have missed that simple feeling of accomplishment when you stand back and realize that you have successfully addressed a problem.  But every week that I spend walking back and forth through the yard I sense that I am learning something valuable even if I can’t quite take that knowledge and transform it into a bigger picture.

This weekend I really started to sense a change though.  While I mowed the lawn, I noticed that one section of the yard was really dry in spite of being in deep shade and in spite of having given the impression of perpetual wetness earlier this spring.  I noticed that a different section of yard that was especially uneven and promised at least one gruesome ankle injury if the issue doesn’t get addressed. 

I started filling holes and discovered
many more in the process.

Though I was silently complaining to myself about the size of the lawn, the time I spent out there afforded me the luxury of day-dreaming about the summer ahead.  It occurred to me that this yard is big enough that I wouldn’t feel conflicted about filling up my daughter’s pool and just letting it sit there for a couple days.  The grass beneath it could die and it wouldn’t be a huge eyesore like it would have been in the smallness of our former yard.  As I struggled to maneuver the mower as close to the shed as I could, I had a quick vision of a small bed of flowers surrounding the shed with a trellis of sweet peas in the middle.

I think I'll remove the ornamental pear tree planted so closely to the shed and put in some kind of flower bed.

I could imagine a fall day, years from now, sitting around a stone fireplace with friends and kids while the dark came on us. I imagined friends sharing spiked hot chocolate or mulled wine while the autumn colors of trees I have yet to plant cast a quiet spell upon us.  

I found this picture on Houzz and I would love to mimic this some day.
(Traditional Patio by Portland Landscape Architect beautiful bones and purple stones)

I don’t know which of these things will come to pass.  Maybe I will have a different vision at some point that will inspire me to go in another direction.  But the encouraging thing is that I am starting to believe that I will, eventually, make this work.  This will become a place I can handle or at least a place that I will enjoy trying to handle. 

Living with it for a while is still going to take a while.  But piece by piece I am putting this puzzle together and it’s starting to feel okay that I’m doing it all without the picture on the box to guide me. 


  1. I have reduced my lawn and blank slate to create a bit of a sanctuary...love the images of your dream...

    1. Donna, I definitely think that reducing the lawn is going to make life easier for me and it will certainly be the first step in any real transformation of this yard into a garden.

  2. This kind of garden dreaming process seems so important -- even if it does come at the cost of all that lawn mowing. -Jean

    1. Thank you, Jean. It's good to read that someone agrees that this process is probably worthwhile.