When I was a little kid, almost every Saturday was spent going to one of my grandmother's houses. Some Saturday's it was both grandmothers' houses. Granny's house was the place where we could run around outside in the front yard and the backyard. Everyone on the block knew each other and had been there for some time so now they were watching each other's grandkids grow up too. Everyone knew your name and who your people were. I never wanted to spend too much time in the backyard because it represented two things to me, restriction and work.
It never failed, that whenever we were in the backyard our play space and the things we could get into were limited, there were four areas to my Granny's back yard. The rocks, in between the houses, the patio, the space for sitting and lounging, the grass, the soft place to land, and the garden, the seasonal no-fly zone. All of which represent some season of your journey. Let's take a moment to unpack what happens when and where so you can navigate successfully, no matter the terrain.
The Rocks, this awkward, unusable, unfinished space between the houses. The place where dogs are usually kenneled, air conditioning units sit, or storage area for patio furniture or the trash cans. The rocks, are in the cut. Not so for grannies house, it was an empty desolate space that frequently had became an adventure for almost all her grandchildren. It was the quick passageway where we'd run and hide or run around the entire house and hop the gate. It was were I encounter my first garden snake. It was also the place that I learned how to pull weeds.
See, underneath the rocks was black fabric that was supposed to be a weed barrier, blocking out the sun, to prevent weeds from growing up in between the rocks, but the storms of the previous winter shifted it all around, leaving the ground exposed. In the spring just like clockwork, the weeds did what weed do- spring up and take over. But my grandmother was determined not to let them win. She called all her grandkids over to the house, because we were lower to the ground, and taught us how to pull weeds.
At first we'd just break off the leaves, or maybe the stem, but when she saw what we doing she quickly corrected us and told us to wrap our hands around the bottom of the weed, closest to the dirt, and pull slowly, as hard as we could. And before you knew it, you had pulled out the weed and the entire root system connected to it. It was amazing to see how long the roots were. In many cases they were deeper underground than the weed was above the ground. I think was amazed me just as much as the length of the root was how something could grow in a hot, dry place...because Granny never watered that part of the yard. They just grew. She never had to plant seeds, they just grew whenever they felt like it. Despite the circumstances, the weeds understood their assignment.
Now on The Patio, it was a little different, this was the space where generations of family members had hung out. This was the heart of every bbq...where the cooking happened and the stories were shared. This is the solid rock, was laid there over 50+ years ago, has never cracked from the frigid cold winters and blistering hot summers. It's upheld birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers, a timeline of events...and it has never failed us. We've danced, ice skated, from roller skates to rollerblades. Only occasionally would we find a weed growing up at the corners of the Pogo sticks, jumped ropes, and t-balled. Yet the patio, remained, happy to be used, dependable for a growing family.
The Grass, is the land of soft lands and lost goods. I can't tell you how many times I've fallen after doing a cartwheel. Or tripped while racing someone from the patio to the back gate. The lush blades of grass, always provided a safety net for young knees and pointed elbows. Funny thing is, I don't ever recall seeing weeds in the grass. Maybe she was spraying some type weed & feed, but I don't ever remember seeing a dandelion. Only intentionally planted flowers with decorative boundaries to prevent humans or animals from walking on what she deemed valuable.
The security of knowing you were protected. As kids, it seemed like such a huge yard. I think all of us have pictures there. It also is the place that anything that wasn't tied down in your pocket ,mysteriously found itself in the grass. Jewelry, money, toys, and trinkets. The grass almost became a cool to walk in because you'd never know what you would find. This is the beauty of going to Granny's house on the weekend. The adventure is one that you'll always remember but were completely safe while you explored.
The final area was the Garden, this was my Granny's favorite spot. The place where she kneeled down with her knees pressed in the soil, pulled weeds that threatened her harvest, watered the plants every other day because of Chicago's humid summers. The bees buzzed around the blooms during the day, and the lightening bugs light up the grass at dusk. This is the place were she lined her plants against the gate and across the far back of the yard. There was order and a method to her garden. I remember her growing Bell Peppers, Tomatoes, Collard Greens, Turnip Greens, and cucumbers.
It seemed like everyday we were eating some type of salad or sandwiches with freshly sliced tomatoes. This was her sweet spot, because she guarded it with wire and scar crow like objects. She nearly threatened our lives if we got in arm's reach of the space she felt most at home. Her connection to the garden is strong because her father was a sharecropper, so farming made her feel close to her him and her southern roots. And year after year she did it well, proud of what she produced, and all the work it took to watch something grow out of nothing.
As we start spring...God is saying to many of us...be aware of the weeds in your yard. Don't just pick at them, but be sure to pull them up by the root. He will maintain the rest. If you look and listen there are lessons from our own backyard in the space of restriction and work, that we would have never learned if we were allowed to meandered up and down the street.