This was our summer project. Every Saturday for about two months we were out in the yard from the time we woke up until the time it got too dark to see the tools in our hands. And if you count the prep work, like ripping up the sod and leveling out the ground, it’s been more like two and a half months.
But it is 100% worth it! The backyard is now my favorite room “in” the house. I love to watch the vines stretching up and the bamboo (behind the loveseat) fanning out. I love to just sit and relax and think about whatever comes to mind, letting my brain sort of float from one idea to the next.
Thinking time has become such a precious commodity since I had kids! I used to develop scenes or lesson plans or whatever as I commuted or in other moments that I had to myself, but with kids, instead of musing about whatever, I’m usually answering long strings of questions that all start with “What’s that?” or “Why are we going this way?”
I’ve always loved the outdoors as a good thinking place, anyway. My family lived in Portland, Oregon, for a few years when I was in middle school, and I loved to retreat into the trees when I wanted a little space from everything. Now I finally have a backyard retreat. It was just grass before, and now it’s a place for ideas to hatch.
I don’t know if everybody’s brain works the way mine does (probably not?), but thinking things through is the first step for me in any project. It takes me months of thinking before I can put the pieces of a novel together and start drafting. I have to think through every lesson plan in my head, wondering what I want the students to get out of it and what the best way is to do that and make the concepts stick.
Even this backyard project itself was like that. I started envisioning the pergola (overhead structure) over a year before we built it, and I had to ask lots of people lots of questions about what size and types of boards to use, how to attach them to the house and to each other, how far apart I could space things and what weight load the posts could handle. I also had to buy a book (because I’m my father’s daughter) and read through all the instructions five times before I felt comfortable buying materials and starting.
Once we had the pavers laid and the pergola built, I went through the same thinking process for the landscaping. I made I-don’t-know-how-many trips to the local nursery this summer trying to figure out what plants I wanted around the border of the patio. The guy helping me suggested at least a dozen options before he happened to mention bamboo, and then I went home and sat outside for two days trying to picture bamboo against the fence. Once I could picture it, I bought three of them without hesitation and have loved it ever since.
Sometimes I’m envious of the writers I hear about who wake up with an idea and immediately start drafting it. I am definitely a slow thinker. I’ll never be the sort of author who publishes two books in a year. No, I’ll be more like one book every two years. But I guess the nice thing is that I like the way I am. Just like the backyard makeover, I’ve been pretty happy with the results I get after letting ideas simmer in my head for a while.