Living the Dream–a view from last summer

Rob recently washed my car for me.  I’d been meaning to, but never got around to it, and he did it for me, understanding my main motivation.  He approached me with two stickers in his hand and announced that it was time.  When the car was clean, I could put on the stickers we got on our vacation this summer—one from Yosemite and one from Muir Woods.  Across from the Yellowstone sticker we got last summer, I look like quite the budding naturalist.  Or granola head.  Or, given the fact that my car is a hybrid, an environment-conscious human.  Guilty on all counts.  He smiled:  “Look at you.  Hybrid car, garden in the backyard–you’re living the dream, aren’t you?” 
I am!  My life right now tends dangerously toward perfect.  The garden has always been a dream, and we’ve tried several times, with mixed results.  The most success I think we had was the herb garden, where I grew seven or eight different herbs, all of which were intended for use in the kitchen.  I made a really terrific marinara once with entirely home grown herbs and tomatoes (the tomatoes had grown rogue, the result of a happy bird population, not our purposeful planting).  It was delicious.  It took way too much time.  I made it once—photographed it, otherwise documented it, and moved on.
This year’s garden is the result of many years of drought and of our increasing awareness of the value of water.  In the last few years, as water restrictions have tightened (and we tightened even more than the restrictions—we were VERY good Californians) all of our lawn has died, front and back.  We’ve decided to xeriscape the front, but for the back, we let the dog decide.  Ok, that’s not entirely true, but close.  When the kids were little, it was important that we had a grassy backyard for them to play in. 
Now that they’re mostly grown, they don’t play outside like they did.  But the dog….  A few months ago we got a Bassett Hound puppy.  The first time we walked him around the block, he couldn’t make it; we had to carry him home.  As he got stronger, he made it around the block by pausing now and again in people’s lawns for break—like he plops right down on a neighbor’s grass and expects you to wait a few minutes while he catches his breath.  Then he got stronger, and we started to suspect he just liked the feel of the cool grass.  

So we got some sod for the backyard.  For the dog.
The backyard is too big to fill the whole thing with lawn again, though, so we just made him a patch to sit on.  It’s more of a run, really, eight feet wide and about twenty feet long, and when we showed it to him, he was delighted.  It’s perfect.  And it doesn’t take much water for a lawn that small.  But the yard is twice that size.  So we planted a garden. 
Now my backyard is half grass and fruit trees and half garden.  Sunflowers, corn, cucumbers, zucchini and yellow summer squash.  For the past few weeks, we’ve been eating home grown food, and it has filled a happy little part of my heart.  It’s wonderful to feel self-sufficient (I’m not under any illusions I could survive off-grid, but eating my own zucchini is marvelous), and it’s wonderful to decorate with a garden.  

It reminds me of my mother who always proclaimed she decorated with books.  Talk about blending the functional and the beautiful.  Books on the walls, and greenery and flowers in the yard.  Add to that our pretty happy positions at work (Rob is teaching a bit less, to pursue other interests, and I am at a comfortable spot in my career, where I can take some time to learn Italian and call it research), our kids who are actually enjoying high school, and the burgeoning little community of our two cats, two dogs, and countless itinerant outside critters including birds, squirrels, skunks, lizards, butterflies, and bees (who are so pleased we planted sunflowers!), and he’s right:  I’m living the dream. In the world and of the world.  Physical abundance and mental contentment.  Watching my garden grow.

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