Saturday, September 22, 2007

a life built

Right now I am sitting in my backyard. It is one of my favorite places to be. In the morning I eat my breakfast out here and I keep my daily journal out here. I’ve been working on blog entries here too. Occasionally, I will work on my short stories from the comfort of this yard.

I can hear a woodpecker pecking away at the telephone pole on the corner of the street. My dogs are out – one lounging, the other, a huntress fixated on a pine tree, waiting for a squirrel to come running down the trunk.

I like my backyard because it is a handmade space, of mine and my husband’s imaginings and dialog, but largely of my husband’s sweat and talent. The wooden fence, he built. There is a shed/workshop he also conceived of and built. There is a small potting shed. Again, his labor. We have three old chairs circa 1950 (that’s my guess) that we got sandblasted and then C. painted them fire engine red. The screen door to the house has a matching red handle that C. (who once did metal fabrication work) also crafted. And the little rusty tabletop that the chairs are set around is a piece of circular steel to which he welded 3 legs. Even the thing that holds our John-Deere-green garden hose – an old tire rim – is something C. found on the side of the road, and before mounting it to the fence, he painted it the same crisp yellow our maple leaves turn.

Here when we bought the place, there is a maple tree whose canopy, in a couple of months, will turn the most vibrant shade of yellow. Overnight, its leaves will make a golden carpet on the ground. It has grown so much in six years.

There’s more of C. here – a twisted columnar sculpture that sits on the concrete slab he poured before building the shed. It’s one of my favorites of his sculptures. But I guess I like them all. The attic vent at the tip-top of our house is made of metal grate. Set in the foreground, there is steel cut out to look like a rusty silhouette of blades of grass and behind the grass, growing out of it, cast metal in the shape of a tree trunk.

Finally, here in this backyard is the beginning of my own meager attempts to garden. An effort started on a whim in May. I have a vision for this backyard. My husband and I both do. It’s comforting, little by little, to see the vision come to fruition.

Sometimes if the weather is cool, we will make a bonfire here and drink wine. And when it is a gorgeous springtime Sunday, we’ll drink coffee and eat brunch and read the newspaper.

Last night we had a few friends over for drinks. A mix-match of friends, which is just what I felt like – mixing and matching, instead of calling the people I knew would “fit” together. Isn’t the unknown more refreshing and full of pleasant surprises? We sat on top of the concrete slab in the red chairs around the little metal table in front of the workshop. The dogs roamed about, one tactlessly sniffing people’s crotches (like the charming beast she is) and stealing pita bread from the table. Occasionally we watched them in a growling duel – letting one other know, “I’m in charge here,” “No, I’M in charge here.”

Sometimes, me and C., in our human way, growl at each other, demonstrate to one another, “I am in charge here,” “No, I am in charge.” Even so, we are fairly equal counterparts. Strong headed, creative, at once social and reclusive, forces to be reckoned with. Forces reckoning with each other, even as we envision and build the vision of what our lives are and are to be.

Now the dogs have run off to the pedestrian gate. I forgot to mention it – C. made it entirely of metal scraps, leftovers from other jobs. It is full of blade shaped leaves and abstract flowers. It is the gate a person walks through to enter this handmade backyard, part of the collective vision of two people. The distinct space we make and inhabit.

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