What is your passion as a parent?
I read an article today about the size of the Australian suburban back yard (and the structure) and, whilst it contained nothing I had not already pondered regarding the sterile, formal, clipped, concreted and otherwise contained backyards you see more often than not these days, it did cause me to wonder: just how many people with young children have these resort-style looking yards? And who are they building them for?
Don't get me wrong, I think some of these places can look amazing, with their formal box hedges, paving, decking on tiered levels and whatnot. And they are simply stunning to feast your eyes on. But for me, at the end of the day, a backyard requires something much more than this if you have children to cater to. Even our attempts at a pretty neat low-maintenance garden at our last house would not have made for an imagination-inspiring place for any children.
When Steve and I were your not-so-typical (in that we were trying hellishly hard not to be) DINKS - dual income, no kids - our back yard looked like this:
I loved it. Truly loved that garden. But there wasn't much more than a 2x2m bit of grass (if that) and the rest was covered. I did as much with the small space as I could and think we did fairly well with making it interesting, using a lot of indigenous natives as well.
We sold that place when the LGBB was about 18 months old. I had an idea in my mind of giving her something similar to what I had - I grew up on 2 acres in what was termed in the '70s and '80s as "the sticks" (not anymore, the urban sprawl has ensured that suburb is now quite civilised with curb and guttering, sealed footpaths and most pastureland now taken up with more ginormous houses on tiny blocks) - but we were in no real hurry to leave.
And then, the house we are currently living in just plopped into our laps. We bought it before we had even really thought about what we were doing. Our old house wasn't on the market, we hadn't even considered estate agents, we had done the real estate no-no: bought before we sold.
But in my mind's eye, the 1/4 acre we now found ourselves in charge of would ensure our little girl would be able to sample the delights to be found in her own backyard. Granted, it's mostly been a building site in the three years we have owned it, but we are now officially a Garden For Wildlife (a local council incentive, encouraging members to plant and establish locally grown Australian natives to responsibly support and sustain the area's birdlife and other creatures who call these backyards "home"). It's a win-win, surely. And it feels so much more like home, even though strangely, I could never imagine myself leaving our last place which we built from the ground up.
Funny how your perspectives change so much once you are a mother. You make do with what you have and build on that, in whichever is your passion and hopes for your family. One thing close to my heart just happens to be nature and wildlife (flora and fauna). I love attracting it, I deeply adore growing purpose-"built" gardens from the ground up using sustainable, indigenous native plants. That my LGBB appears to be similarly enthused is heartening to me.
I was interviewed two weeks ago by a woman who is preparing a report about humans and how they relate to nature and I found myself crying. I never realised I was *so* passionate about it. But to me, there is not too many more things more important than developing in my child a sense of belonging to the All - that she is a part of it and it (all) is connected to her. If we don't have that.... I wonder, what do we have? For me, when I am feeling low, I know I have lost my connection to that natural world. When I was recovering from losing our firstborn daughter, I planted many of the plants you see in the images above. We also built that pond (our memorial to her in lieu of a cemetary plot to go and visit). Without those projects, cultivating and watching young plants grow and then feed and nurture tiny birds, butterflies and other flying insects, I would have quite lost myself.
This post may seem far removed from anything to do with "mothering" (for it is part of Naomi's linky today), however, to me it is an underpinning staple part of how I nurture and "grow" my child. The two interlink like the branches of our glorious liquidambar tree!
A tree this large would never be safe to grow in a small suburban backyard.
Just the lawn behind her in this shot is more than we would ever have had
in our old garden. And this is our front yard! (which is smaller than the back)
Far from exuding anything formal at all, our back yard has loads of potential
and a load more work to do to get it looking like how I can visualise it.
But it will happen! We'll get there, slowly.
This post is part of the regular Thursday Mother Heart linky over at Seven Cherubs' blog. Go check it out!