My mother says her favorite place in the world is her backyard. I never understood that until I bought my house.
In the world?!, I remember thinking.
Better than the second floor of a certain bookstore in downtown Reykjavik?
Better than the cozy three room guesthouse I lived in after I got divorced?
Better than Wrightsville Beach in the winter?
I couldn’t imagine such a thing.
But after I moved into my house, and the excitement around the hardwood floors, French doors, and light blue kitchen cabinets subsided, I became bewitched with the backyard.
In terms of size, it’s not massive. It’s enough for a decent sized wooden shed. I could probably put a badminton net out there. I’ve thrown parties.
For me, the intrigue is less about the size and more about the magical touches, like the way the sun peeks in through the trees, and the purple wildflowers.
The plump squirrel that occasionally runs across the screen of my porch.
The wild ivy that flows over the debilitated wooden fence between my house and the neighbors.
It’s the way everything grows.
Personally, I like the yard to be a little wild.
I technically live downtown, so I’m required to keep the front tidy. But for the backyard, there are no rules.
I can let the grass grow high and the leaves build up. I can let the wildflowers run amuck. I can leave Morrie’s toys scattered across the lawn.
Morrie also loves the backyard, spending long, lazy afternoons in the sun. He stretches out in patches of light and rolls around, with a goofy expression on his face.
When he wants me to come out into the yard with me, he woofs. And not a bark, but an actual, singular soft woof.
Woof, he’ll say as I’m typing away on my computer or on a call.
“Not now,” I’ll say, half paying attention.
Woof, he’ll say a little louder, as to tell me, This is not a request.
Earlier today, I followed him outside and took in the tiny details of the yard.
I hadn’t been back there since my ex moved out. In terms of tidiness, the yard was Chase’s domain — he kept it trim and neat, mowing the grass and landscaping.
I would be inside, writing, and he’d come in after a hot afternoon, proud and glistening with sweat. Eager to show me his work. Each time, it was a new yard.
Now, it’s overgrown again.
A songbird, perhaps a sparrow, chirps merrily on the rickety fence. I hear one of my neighbor’s rev a chainsaw. My air conditioner hums.
Then, Morrie is pawing, and turn around to find him knee-deep in dirt. He usually doesn’t dig and I don’t want him to, but since I know what he’s looking for, I start snapping pictures instead of scolding.
He pants, his paws clawing furiously as he sniffs. A few months ago, he buried a bone in the backyard, fearing that my ex’s cat, Azula, would take it from him.
It was a hilarious dog moment, seeing him whine and cry at the back door, bone clenched in his jaws. When I let him outside, he manically raced down the back steps, finding a secure, secret spot next to the deck.
I don’t think he’ll find it now, but I can’t knock him for trying. Plus, I like how the photos are turning out.
Clumps of soil flying through the air.
After a few minutes, he lets out a big sigh and lies in the hole.
While he’s resting, I wander through one of the wilder parts of the yard. There’s a big, dead tree that I’ve neglected to get taken down (as it’s a huge headache and incredibly expensive.)
There’s a ton of tall leafy weeds, and as I go to take a picture of one, I find someone resting in its shade.
It’s a turtle, with a beautiful orange and brown shell. I used to have glasses just like him. Round like him, too.
I leave him to his business, not wanting Morrie to notice him.
I retreat to the shed.
I love the mural I made on the side, of gigantic orange and magenta flowers.
The afternoon I spent barefoot, in overalls and a bandana, splattered with acrylic paint, is one of my fondest backyard memories.
I hummed along to Ashley Monroe as I painted, watching the petals slowly take shape.
I hear the rhythm again.