Teri Orr: Beauty found in an unkempt yard
When I returned home Saturday from two weeks of being very far away — a funny thing had happened — my yard had grown to resemble some of the wild countrysides I had loved in Ireland and Scotland. This was the result of a couple of factors: There had been much rain in my absence and the man who has for 20 years helped me with yard stuff had been absent in my absence. We manage to communicate fairly well but my lack of speaking Spanish sometimes limits my ability to explain things clearly. I think when I said I would be gone for two weeks — he must have heard — he could be gone for two weeks. And since he comes every other week we were already a week behind.
The grass was tall, the weeds taller. There were aspen shoots all over the place — dozens. White morning glories in the grassy lawn. The lavender bushes were in full bloom — ditto the mint, chamomile and oregano. The hollyhocks — started with seeds from a dear friend — were now climbing up and over the top of the fence so tall — taller than me and they had bloomed with raspberry, white and deep purple-black flowers. Some strange orange lily-like flower — I certainly never planted — had appeared in the herb garden. And the pricey wildflower seeds I had so lovingly sown in the late spring? Not a single one seems to have taken hold.
The squirrels and the rabbits were staying out of each other’s way but they were criss-crossing the yard. And even though I hadn’t filled the bird feeders in weeks the birds were landing and taking off from the fence posts, trees and back porch railing.
It was dizzying really and so very beautiful.
The lawn got mowed sometime when I was back at work on Monday. But the aspen shoots remain and all of the herb garden is still wild. When I saw the tall grass had been cut I noticed what looked from a distance like the farthest corner of my yard, way in the back corner, had been burned somehow. Upon careful examination I saw it was actually deep purple spray paint in a shape that resembled — oh of course! — the footboard of a bed.
In early ’80s when the Miner’s Hospital was being moved from its original location near the base of the Park City Mountain Resort — they sold some of the old stuff that was inside before moving the grand old dame to City Park. (We are forever in Tina Lewis’ debt for that grand leap of imagination and bold push to save a remarkable historic structure.) I think I paid $5 for a bed frame. The headboard and footboard were round iron posts. I spray painted it fire engine red. It was my son’s bed as he grew from a 4-foot-tall 10-year-old boy to a 6-foot-3 18-year-old young man. When he left for college I let his room out to a friend. She brought her own bed. So I moved the iron bed to the garage.
In the farthest corner of my yard there it a tiny dirt rise and underneath, on the street, is where the fire hydrant for the neighborhood lives. It was always kinda ugly. Years ago for Mother’s Day the kids planted a flowering crabapple tree for me and it is a thing of beauty there … but the corner still seemed so … naked. One day moving things in the garage — I came upon the iron bed. I painted it purple and “planted” it on the dirt hill — separately top from bottom — about six feet. Then I bought a flat of pansies and put them between the headboard and footboard and voila! — a flower bed was born.
I had neglected the upkeep of the paint and some kind soul — while I was away — had refreshed the paint and replaced the bed. The curling vines and birdbath and sundial all carefully returned.
My dream house would feature a kind of improper English garden overgrown with groaning bushes and flowering herbs and giant winged-back white wicker chairs with cabbage flower patterned cushions. Here, my plicker furniture (plastic meets wicker = plicker) withstands the elements. I accept that living in the mountains of a high desert area will not naturally result in an English countryside.
But I recently added something that will allow me escape. The house next door has a yard that kinda runs behind mine (I live on the corner of a cul-de-sac so I have strange pie-shaped lots around me.) About a year ago some dear friends moved to a street that takes me about 10 minutes to walk to … or a mile-plus to drive to … because of the way the roads got carved out here 40 years ago. When I had dinner at their home — after they first moved in — I discovered my tiny postage stamp-size upstairs bedroom deck was visible directly out their backyard. My next door neighbor’s open field ended at their back fence. We laughed about creating a zip line from house to house to visit and share emergency supplies — like chocolate.
When my gardener friend and I were looking at things that needed to be fixed I noticed that a tree root had pushed out a weathered fence post and I had an idea … what if we created a secret gate that would hinge next to the tree trunk and latch into the top of the fence railing — invisible to most human eyes. So we created the secret gate to the field which leads to the house where I just have climb over their split rail fence and land in their backyard. I haven’t yet tried the crossing but the elements may align this weekend. It could be the just perfect escape for this Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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