I stood at the deck railing, leaning with my palms on the top rail, and looked out over the back yard, thinking of all the work my wife and I had poured into that space — whole weekend days in the heat of summer and in autumn's cool breezes. The yard would never be described as "manicured." The lawn contains more weeds than grass. Volunteer briers and seedlings pop up out of the natural areas. The shrubs need pruning again. The mulch is thin in spots.
But it has been our project, and because we are not perfectionists (at least, I'm not), it is satisfying to look over this little expanse of lawn and mulch and trees and shrubs and to think, like God at the creation, "it is good."
Eleven years we have been in this house, and the house, like the yard, is an unfinished project and always will be. The satisfaction of that moment at the deck rail dissolved into melancholy at the thought of all the work that lies ahead of us and the length of our "to do" list.
And I thought of this: Of how I would like to show this yard, with all its imperfections, to all those who never saw it. My parents, who were in a nursing home when we uprooted ourselves and moved across town to this larger house on a larger lot, never visited us here. We told them about our move and showed them pictures that they seemed not to comprehend. We came home to this yard from their funerals. My brother Bill, who had assisted me in repairs to our previous home, never saw this one. And we never saw the house he lived in when he died so unexpectedly. Brother Larry, who once spent the night with us in a house we were renting years ago, never visited this house, though the invitation remains open.
I had trailed after my older brothers, always reaching milestones years after theirs — graduation, marriage, children, grandchildren, homes. This back yard is not a place for showing, "Look what I've finally done," but a place for sharing, a place to sit and relax and watch the sun set behind the trees as the sky grows dim. That is a satisfaction I long to share.