My wife was sad about our back yard. Her suggestion was that it had taken on the look of a vacant lot. The lawn, which has always been a work in progress, shows no current signs of being trained back form its wild ways. The same could be said for most of the planned vegetation. Trees, bushes and shrubs have taken on lives of their own. One particular volunteer that sprouted up beside the Boogle House, the clubhouse we built over the years from the scraps we kept from home repair projects, now towers above the structure we now use to catch rain water. The plum tree that used to provide us with big, red delicious fruit is now a twisted snag, a victim of the neighbor's acacia that fell over into our yard and snuffed out the last of the life it had in it. A similar fate came to our apple tree, which no longer fills the center of the yard with its shade and inviting lower branches. Suckers have sprouted up on the sides, but hopes for any kind of apple harvest in the coming year are solidly dashed. Currently, the healthiest of the main trees in our back yard is the apricot. We try not to notice the sap that collects at the end of some of the branches, and we ignore the holes where limbs have become less full. This was also the place where our son had a tree house, placed there by his father in a fit of whimsy rather than fully planned carpentry. The scars of that experience are still visible if you look carefully. The rose bushes have survived a few years of drought, but as the most scrupulously maintained aspect of the yard, they continue to produce blooms at a pleasantly regular pace. I understand how she feels when she looks out from the back porch and sees what she can see.
I don't see a vacant lot. I see a lot full of growing things. The vine that we planted and trained to crawl up the plum tree trunk is becoming its own symbiotic being. The resiliency of the plants we have alternately cared for and ignored as our attention has been drawn elsewhere is amazing to me. What we, as cartoonists, have been able to achieve horticulturally is still pretty stunning. And even if all we were left with was dried twigs and scorched earth, I would look back there and see a lot of memories. Water fights. Kids climbing trees. Birthday parties. Bouquets of flowers taken from the plants that we watered and nurtured. The improvements we made that are now nestled into the firmament. Grass and moss now creep onto the bricks and boards we placed there years ago. It is far from empty, and a long way from vacant.