My family is enormously lucky because we live in a place that is green, and beautiful. Our house is surrounded by trees.
We’ve been in this house for 30 years. That seems so hard to believe. My husband Paul and I raised our three kids here. We’ve had two cats and five dogs at different times in this house.
Parts of the yard have been, at various times over the years, a baseball diamond, a hockey rink, a vegetable garden, a flower bed, a strawberry patch and a place to put the swings.
Now the kids are all grown up and on their own, and it’s time for us to start looking forward. In another ten or so years, we plan to sell this house and move someplace with less upkeep. It’s time.
With that thought in mind, we’re hiring someone to help clean up this huge yard and make things look neater and less overgrown. I have mixed feelings about it, isn’t that weird?
I walk around and I look at what is now a big rock buried in raspberry and blackberry vines. I remember thirty years ago, when that was the site of my first little garden. I planted “hens and chicks” and other succulents, thinking it would be a rock garden. I didn’t anticipate the encroachment of the woods. It didn’t occur to me that Mother Nature had her own plans.
The arborist is going to take down a tall, slender oak tree near our driveway. It is competing with other trees for sunlight and is now leaning toward our deck. It shades an entire section of lawn. Everything will look more open, more sunny, when it is gone.
But I remember one warm summer morning when that oak was about my height. I laid on the grass with our new puppy in my arms and looked at the sky through its leaves. That puppy is long gone now, crossed over the rainbow bridge in his old age. I look at that oak tree, and I remember his soft ears and his puppy smell. I don’t really want the tree to go. But it’s time.
There is a little grove of baby white pines that need to be taken out, too. They stand together, like a little family that has silently stepped out of the forest and into our yard. They silently watch the grass where my kids used to play “desert land.” They need to come down, but I will miss them.
I can count the passage of our family’s years by looking at the tree stumps that now stand in the yard. There’s the stump of a tree that once held a toddler’s swing. There is the stump of a pine that used to guard a squirrel nest.
Time passes, and we know we are aging. My mirror and my bones tell me that!
But I forget sometimes that this house and this yard are aging, too. It will be good to have it cleaned up, and to have the woods retreat back to where they belong.
Still, there is a little piece of me that wishes for something else. Perhaps it would be magic, I think, if we simply moved away and let the forest gently and slowly enfold the house where our children grew up. Let her cover it up and keep it safe, like a tender memory that can only be revisited in dreams.
Image: “Pine Tree and others” by scottc320 is licensed under CC BY 2.0
9 thoughts on “The Passing Years, and How to Count Them”
Get an artist to illustrate this, and you have the makings of a lovely children’s picture book….”Little House in the Woods” or something like that. Nicely told!
This was a lovely reflection…
I want to put those memories of years past in a jar to look at like a snow globe.
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What a beautiful image!
This is a lovely post, one that should go in your book of extra-special, outstanding columns. I’m sure you have enough (more than enough!) of these for a book by now.
You’re such a boost to the ego. I really should use this quiet time to put together a book of essays!
This is a beautiful reflection on home and family life over the years. It really resonated with me as we have been in our home for 34 years, and the rooms and garden are full of memories. Like you, the time is approaching when it will be time to leave this big, old house … and I’ve got to admit that I’m not looking forward to it. I’m going to work on your ‘forest takeover’ idea to preserve the magic of all those years for posterity. Thank you for this lovely post.
I’m working hard to keep my eyes on the future. And to gently let go of the past. Considering that I started this blog in an effort to fend of my empty nest depression, that’s a hard task for me! Thanks for understanding, and for reblogging.
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Reblogged this on Carmel Bendon – author and commented:
My posts are usually about ‘the past’ and in this lovely reflection from the “Empty Nest, Full Life” blog site (one of my favourites), there are some thoughts about how we hold and honour the past experiences in our own lives. I thought you might appreciate it as much as I did so I’m reblogging it, with thanks to the author ‘Momshieb’.