Backyards have a special place in my heart.
My backyard serves as a refuge, an every day sanctuary from the outside world. Literally on the other side of the fence, is a public sidewalk, a well-trafficked street, and the entrance to a heavily used baseball field. But all of this fades away when I'm wandering in my familiar greenscape. It's where, as a gardener, I can experiment with perennials, watch new growth throughout the summer and over seasons, and play with an organic palette of colors and textures. Something remarkable is happening all the time, if I'm present to the moment.
In the summer, I hear the sound of rustling aspen leaves, moved by a morning breeze. I see the fluttering of happy wings of a butterfly backlit by the sun. I am delighted to find a few strawberries ready to be picked, hidden red treasures under thick green leaves.
In the fall, I watch for the transformation from green to gold to red, and the space left behind when the leaves drop from their summer perch. I speculate which green tomatoes will beat the clock and ripen before the first hard frost, or more likely, where I live, the first snowfall.
In the winter, there is grace and elegance in a heavy winter blanket. I am thrilled to see the contrast between the white snow, brown trunks, and blue skies after Old Man Winter has blown through. Crystals, with hardly any mass, are magically held in place on thin limbs, until the sun begins to dissolve the trees' temporary adornment. Droplets, falling off sagging branches, add a calming sound to the landscape.
In the spring, I smile at the sight of tiny light green leaves against the deep red twigs of dogwood bushes. Later, I immerse myself in the perfume of purple hyacinth and blooms of delicate flowering bushes. I wait for colors to pop in different parts of the yard, as tulips and irises and roses make their grand entrance into the world.
I recently came upon this essay, written during a writing group that I attended several years ago. We were asked to write about "moments of the Divine" and here's what I wrote (with a bit of editing as I re-type my long hand):
"Moments of the Divine...brings me back to the small house in a 1950's subdivision, three bedrooms, with thin walls and not much insulation, a functional kitchen and living room, without the adornment of a foyer or entryway. The house bows not to the front steps or the street view, but to the backyard. The yard felt secluded, literally enclosed by a picket fence painted white, built by my father, plank nailed to plank, pointed on top to keep intruders out and children in. Photo by John-Morgan
That backyard was a safe world of play and harvest. An apple tree on the right side was the centerpiece of the yard, nurtured by my parents who were loving gardeners/guardians. A garden, with raised beds, enclosed by a chain link fence, occupied the back left corner. And in the right back corner, was a small peach tree, redolent in the summer with gems of fruit.
As a small child, the sandbox, just off the patio, was heaven. It was defined by a poured concrete border and enhanced with large truck tires that served as round rubber benches. I would play for hours, content.
In that backyard, there was nothing that could harm you. Scrapes healed quickly. Imagination ran wild. Sand became the drafting table for life.
In that backyard, high up in the apple tree, I could be hidden from the rest of the world--not just from neighborhood kids, but from my brothers and sister and parents. Surrounded by small bumpy-shaped apples and coarse green leaves, and held in place by thick branches stretching out in every direction, it was my secret place to retreat to.
This refuge, this mini-world, was not the real world. And that's okay.
Everyone should have such a place, whether real or imaginary, that allows you to feel safe and warm."
It's seductive to think that the Divine will show up during "peak" moments--on a vacation in an exotic locale or at a 50th birthday party or upon achieving a milestone at work. But I haven't found that to be the case. The Divine is here and now, in this ordinary, yet extraordinary moment. Photo by Friar's Balsam
My backyard, as a child and now, serves as a portal to moments of the Divine--where I can see the magic in my everyday world, where my soul is rejuvenated, and my ego feels secure.
What serves as a sanctuary for you, to recharge and interact with the Divine? Where do you meet the Divine?