Garden of Eating

In our home, the month of June brings visions of outdoor family fun. Through the years our kids would high five each other on the last day of school as we anticipated the lazy days of summer ahead. Sometime around Father’s Day my husband would put on his manly apron and fire up the backyard barbeque. The burgers would start flying and the pink lemonade would begin flowing through our multi-colored straws. Life was good. At least that is how summer started out.

We really did dream of lazy summer days, but I have to confess many of our summers turned into what we not so affectionately called “project vacations.” In other words, we did yard work. Not just planting simple gardensgrueling, backbreaking, hard labor kind of yard work. We dug meandering pathways in hard clay soil, pulled weeds, hauled tons of gravel and flagstones, trimmed massive laurel hedges, planted lovely flower gardens and mowed great expanses of lawn. Those lazy days of summer were hard work. While we dreamed of enjoying our summer vacation, we also dreamed of the perfect yard to complement our perfect house. We didn’t have a landscaper or full time staff to achieve our vision while we played in the sun, so we had to enlist someone to make things happen. “Someone” was my husband and his trusty assistantme.

Times have changed since those days of hard summer labor. We don’t do summer project vacations anymore. Not because we finished our landscape and have gone off to play (although we did finish it and it was a beautiful sight to behold). We did all of that hard work so another family could enjoy the fruit of our labour. We moved from that house just after the landscape was completed four years ago. (I do see the irony in that, believe me.)

By the look of things in our current backyard, you’d think we would be reliving the good old days and planning an extensive project vacation this summer. But instead of wearing out another set of leather gardening gloves, we have learned to live with a bit less perfection. The trade off for skipping those project vacations is that when we grab those burgers and sip our lemonade in the backyard, we are not sitting in the next Garden of Eden.

With this property, we have settled for what might appear to be a forlorn barren look. It is a sacrifice we had to make when we bought this house. Our back yard fell into the “we’ll get to it in about the year 2030” category of home improvement priorities. Luckily, I have a vivid imagination. When we gather around outside with burgers in buns and cold drinks in hand, I imagine I am sitting in my own little English Garden. Minus the garden. You can’t have everything, and sometimes that can be a blessing in disguise.

By putting off our landscaping until the year 2030, we now spend more time at the park than doing yard work. Over the past four years, I have grown quite comfortable with the idea that we can walk over to the local park and enjoy the lush green grass but never have to mow it. It is like having your own personal gardener but you don’t have to pay him. Without our own beautiful yard to maintain, we spend more time playing, daydreaming and soaking up the summer sun with the kids. We walk to the local outdoor pool to splash away the hours instead of wielding giant clippers and hauling yard debris. We play instead of work on our vacations. We spend more time walking, swimming, biking and going to the beach.

I do miss our old yard. There is nothing like sitting on your patio and smelling the sweetness of the jasmine and lavender you planted yourself. And someday, if we have more time or money, I hope to create another garden our family can enjoy. I might even plant a few containers with my kids this summer to add a little more beauty to our summer barbeques. But I have learned to be patient and content with where we are in life right now. I don’t need to rush things. I am happy to simply have a “Garden of Eating,” a humble place where we can gather together for a family picnic after a long afternoon of playing in grass we didn’t have to mow, swimming in a pool we didn’t have to maintain, and smelling flowers in a garden we didn’t have to weed. My husband now wears his manly barbeque apron more often than his leather work gloves. Life is good – we feel blessed.

All I have to do is shut my eyes and I can almost picture the Garden of Eden instead of our pile of dirt and weeds. And I’m OK with that.

Ecclesiastes 4:6, “Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.”

©2008, Melissa Michaels

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