The Old Yellow House Down The Road

 Quercus agrifolia

Down the road is an old yellow house.  The landscape consists of:

1. Several Quercus Agrifolia that appear to have been there before the house was built.
2. Fallen oak leaves.
3. Dirt.

There isn't anything else.  Just the oaks and the soil.  There are no weeds--too dry and too shady is the only think I can think of to explain that, and maybe the thick blanket of fallen oak leaves also helps prevent weed growth.  When I first passed by that yard some years ago, I thought...what did I think?

"What a shame they don't do something with that yard!  So sad!"  Or worse:
"They forgot the rusted-out cars on blocks and the red-eyed pit-bull chained to a doghouse."  

The oaks are untrimmed.  They are irrigated by winter rain alone.  There is neither green waste nor compost.  No mow, no blow.  No pesticides or fungicides.  No PVC irrigation pipe and Red Hot Blue Glue to stick them all together.  No clippers, gloves, mowers, trimmers, or immigrant labor.    Just the oaks and the soil. 

What do I think now?  I think...differently.  I never thought the oaks should ever be touched, it seemed only that something was missing, but these days with the increasing awareness of the huge burden humanity is placing on our fragile planet, I'm drifting inexorably towards thoughts like:

"Like it or not, it's 100% "sustainable"".  And:  "No green waste, no gasoline burned, no water spilled."  And:  "Is anything more really necessary?"

If you do no work, does that mean it is not a garden?  Is a landscape of nothing more than a few native trees an eyesore, a trailer-trash heaven missing just the rusted-out car and the pit bull with chewed up ears?  

Surely a little more "design" or "art"--the hand of a beauty-lover--could add something--could add just enough to make it appear intentional, and thus say to the viewer, "This simplicity is deliberate.  This austere grove has a thinking, feeling mind behind it."  "This is:  On Purpose."  Something as simple as carefully added stones, local not exotic, their shape and texture complementing the oaks, or a path of gravel or flagstone.  Perhaps a handful of nasturtium seeds tossed out as the winter rains begin.  A couple of chairs brushed clean of leaves out under the great canopy of undulating limbs--to say to the world that someone sits under those trees, that it is a place for thought and conversation, not just for birds and insects, wind and rain. 

Is the presence of a Mind required to say, "Yes, this is a garden."?  When I look up through the oaks, it feels like nothing more is needed, but a light touch could add, don't you think, without taking away?

Quercus agrifolia


  1. Hoov, I've been thinking along these lines too: First, do no harm. Sometimes aesthetics can take a back seat.


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