"I spoke of Tamar's ability to see beauty and to put to one side the trouble she can do nothing about. All around their little cottage there are booby traps set by the children in the way of deep pits, dug outs in the sand, tree houses, and when the children are not making chaos round about, the geese are..."
--Dorothy Day, The Catholic Worker, Feb. 1956
Admittedly, I have not always looked on the backyard where my two charges play with fondness. It is not neat or well-manicured. Weeds pop up everywhere, piles of dirt dot the landscape. The fencing is at least forty-years-old.
I have come to love it.
We run, we dig, we sit in the dirt. We pick the flowers that wisp away when we blow on them (see picture above). We cackle with delight at the sounds we make with old drainage pipes strewn about the yard. We play "Ready, Set, Go!" on cracked and bumpy sidewalks--and break out in giggles when one of the toddlers falls. Sure these bumps and cracks are the enemy of the fragile or the prim, but to the three of us, two toddler boys and their near-50 babysitter, they are gold. How can we not laugh when a toddler cracks-up at his own misfortune?
"If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in."
— Rachel Carson
The search for backyard perfection stifles the joy of backyard imagination. Kids don't need fertilizers; they need dirt piles and weed patches. Their natural inclination is to explore what can be found on the ground. Chemicals become a barrier between us and creation.
The beautiful backyard is the one children can play freely in, safe from chemicals and other poisons. It's the one where they can become acquainted with the Creator through his creation.
Ms. Carson has one part of the equation right, but given my own experience, I can't help but think that if an adult is to keep his sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of a child. I am doubly blessed.