I'm a gal, aged 75, part of the fabulous world-wide 4Corners Critique Writing Group (U.S., Germany, Brazil, Canada), who wants to meet the world, along with all her wonderful writer buddies!
Sunday, April 12, 2009
LOOKING OUT OVER MY NEW BACKYARD
I'm now sitting, looking out over our new backyard, which took final shape while I was in the hospital having knee surgery. My husband loves sitting out there in the late afternoon with his scotch and I am now going to be joining him more often as my knee is beginning to cooperate and act more like a normal knee.
Our architect used his own backyard as inspiration in planning ours. Both have a circular pattern with plantings massed around it or in corners and a yard in the center. Plato has his own special penned in space in a corner. That, to save the new grass and tender plants. Ours has a wonderful set of stepping stones around the outside to hopefully train Plato to get to his pen without disturbing the grass or the new plants. Jerry has gotten lazier and lazier and now just points Plato toward the pen. "Go Plato!" Too bad Plato can't lock the pen himself.
In a later post I'll fill in a list of what we've got planted in our backyard. I will say about eighty percent of it is new. We have a glorious pepper tree in the center of the yard which the rest of the yard bows to in reverence. It could be as old as the yard--probably is--which would make it seventy four years old. A lot of things have conspired against that tree over the years. We had a neighbor who used to pray for its demise as it blocked their view of the San Francisco Bay.
Another prize tree, a Red Tip Photinia, sits all the way to the left hand corner of the yard. It initially was planted, along with four others, to become a hedge. Its brothers are gone and this one remains, filling out the corner, tall and robust. It grows by sending out new red leaves. It now has amazing bunches of white blossoms growing in wild profusion. I think I love this tree most and it has to do with the very wildness of it's ways. The rest of the yard is very ordered and controlled at this point in it's life.
As a pean, a peacemaker to me our architect, Bryan, planted three Japanese Maples, one of which you see in the photograph. They are full leaved trees, a good fifteen feet tall already, and they are beautiful. Two sit in back corners, one straight back. They help, but of course no full grown tree of forty years can every be replaced by mere spindlings. I fought for and lost a forty year old Japanese Maple in our front yard. It had to go--I knew that. It was a volunteer and was encroaching on a retaining wall, but oh did it hurt to see it go!
I did not manage to replace the other tree I lost. Along the side of the house we used to have an California Live Oak, another volunteer. California Live Oaks are protected trees, native to California. It was hidden for years by the jungle that was our front yard so when it emerged from behind all the strangeness it was a little strange itself with a tall, scrawny trunk at the base from which emerged the rest of the tree. It was the upper part of the tree you focused on: it looked like it should have looked, with a crown of branches lifting heavenward that birds visited.
Bryan wanted that tree gone. It was ugly, it interfered with his plans plus it was planted too close to a retaining wall. He periodically brought up removing the tree but I always refused, asking him instead to plan around it. Then there came the day when he found the tree had some black oozing stuff coming out of it, called conveniently enough Black Ooze Disease, or something of the sort. I envision him chortling and rubbing his hands in glee. He was finally going to get rid of that tree.
He told me the tree was sick and needed to come out. I said I wanted another opinion. Any arborist would do. He said he would go to the city as the city would be the final arbiter anyway.
I came home the next day to find a confab going between my husband; Bryan; John, who was in charge of the job; and Steve, the head construction person. The architect had gone to the city to inquire about removing the tree. Not only couldn't the tree be removed, there couldn't be any construction to within eight feet of the tree. They had begun framing in the steps that would ultimately lead to our front door. They were within a foot of the tree. They were talking about how they were going to have to lift the steps over a bridge of sorts to clear the roots of the tree. That might satisfy the city. I was not a popular person, let me tell you. I sighed and told them to take out the tree. We would just have to hope we wouldn't be fined.
I figure the city killed that tree. The city would have denied us access to our own house. As of this date we have not been fined.
The rest of the plantings have had to wait for the house to be painted. The house has been painted; yesterday the new gutters went up. Now we wait for the rest of the yard to take shape. One day we'll sit on the front patio and look at the view of the city which has emerged from behind our jungle. All that will be missing is that beautiful Live Oak.
The Turnabout Shop is located in El Cerrito, California, at 10052 San Pablo Avenue—our telephone number is 510-525-7844. We are open Wednesday through Saturday from noon to four. The shop has a very interesting background and I plan to devote one of my upcoming blogs to that history. I was born in Minnesota in 1933, moved to Wisconsin with my family in my twenties, collected a Bachelor of Science degree in Childhood Education, left for California for a teaching job and met my husband. We have been married for 47 years and have two sons and two grandsons, age six and a half and almost three. I love thrift stores. Where else could you find a grotesque Paper Mache mask with weird decorations? Weird can be wonderful! This one nearly caused a divorce: "Either that goes or you go!" We have a dog—an Akita mix called Plato—named for the philosopher. He is a very bright dog. I still have family in Wisconsin and the memories of a wonderful brother who I'm grieving. Take some time out of your busy day and come visit me.