Noticing the Backyard

Yesterday, I managed to lock myself out of my home for approximately two hours. In those two hours I wandered through the back yard of the house I grew up in. I knelt on the cement, grass, and rocks. I let my hands move the earth as I explored a space I used to adore. I first admired my father’s innovation, as I looked at the fence my father made, many years ago now, to separate our yard from the neighbor’s yard. This fence is made from pipes, metal, scraps of wood, and bits of an older fence. It’s a nice fence. It’s sturdy ,and has survived many storms. As my eyes moved away from the fence, I noticed the exercise machine covering the manhole in the yard. I tried to open the manhole by lifting part of the cracked lid, but could not. The exercise machine is tied to a fence to keep it from being moved; thus, I could not easily access the manhole. It’s probably best that I do not go inside it.

I continued walking. I noticed small plants growing between most sidewalk cracks. I saw a thin tree growing through one of the many wired fences, weaving itself in and out of the fence. I found dirty dice, dirty golf balls, dirty bouncy balls, and the colorful glass rocks that had been in a fish tank I had once, as a teenager, owned. I found our, now dead, pet parakeet’s bird cage, between the branches of a dead tree that, when living, my sisters and I used to try to climb. That tree used to yield beautiful purple flowers. In front of this dead tree is a dying a peach tree– there are peach pits scattered all around it. Opposite this dying peach tree is a smaller peach tree, in a large cracked flower pot. This living peach tree has roots that are  beginning to extend out of the pot. As I continued observing I found many more plants I recognized. For example, a single cucumber vine wrapped itself around the tree that is growing around the fence. A couple tomato plants were present near the cemented parking space. These plants had yielded several cherry-tomatoes. I did not pick any. I found a spearmint plant, oregano, and several small strawberry plants. Most summers throughout my childhood, my dad would plant as much as he could in our yard (tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, watermelon, cucumbers, strawberries, corn, radishes, etc., etc., ). In recent years, he stopped planting crops. Yet, some plants return year after year– the seeds left behind from previous years now germinate on their own. We don’t always pick the crop, sometimes we do. We don’t always notice, sometimes we do. Yet, the earth seems to remember us and the days of labor once dedicated to growing a garden in a backyard.

The sun’s heat began to bother me, so I retreated inside the old car parked in the backyard. I tried to take a nap inside it, but the heat made me too uncomfortable. I then sat on the sidewalk with my back leaning against the house, facing the yard, waiting for someone with keys to arrive.

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