The backyard vacation: Finding beauty at home
By Bill Shepard
Americans spend millions of dollars each year and travel an equal number of miles in their search of beauty and the different.
It may be all around you; open your eyes and see it. Some find it as near as their own back yard!
I had a dear friend once who liked to travel and each year, as soon as vacation time arrived, he and his wife would be off in search of the “new and different.” He was quite a storyteller and I enjoyed listening to him tell his story as he relived his summer vacation each year.
The aging process often determines how active we remain as we move through our years and so it was with my friend. One summer, he decided to break with their tradition and instead of traveling afar on his vacation, he decided to spend it in his own back yard. He and his wife he lovingly referred to as “Ma” talked it over and decided they would have a “stay-at-home vacation.”
The couple lived in a beautiful home in a quiet rural setting, not far from where I was living at that time. I knew that in time I would learn of his backyard vacation.
The day to begin their vacation soon arrived. Everything was packed — their clothes and all that they would need for camping, including a small tent.
They had made all the necessary arrangements to be away from their home for the week and on this day, they locked the doors of their house and traveled to their back yard. This first-time-ever vacation had just begun!
They slept in their tent each night and arose early each morning. The breakfast was cooked on a cookstove under the open skies and they ate while observing the beauty of their surroundings.
They noticed the little rabbit that came each morning to nibble the tender grass that grew in their yard. They had often paid attention to where the grass had been eaten, but now they were seeing the little thief for the first time. They would sit still and watch him eat his breakfast while they ate theirs.
They listened to the birds chirping their early morning songs, as the birds flew from tree to tree and hopped from limb to limb. He and his wife took turns seeing how many of the different ones they could name. In the afternoons, they would spread a sheet in the shade of one of the trees and each would read a book until it was nap time; then the books were closed and they slept while the gray squirrels played in the trees.
The week passed quickly and then it was time to take the tent down and to travel back to their house. Then came all the usual unpacking that they did, after returning from vacation! I do not recall if they made pictures during this vacation, but I know how much he enjoyed telling the story about the “stay-at-home vacation.”
Now that we are “shut-in” by the coronavirus, it may be a good time to discover our own back yards! We might discover things that have gone unnoticed before, just because we have not taken the time to be present in those surroundings.
My daughter and her husband live in Florida. They have a beautiful home, swimming pool, landscaped back yard and are in a good neighborhood. They are both more than ankle-deep in their retirement years and are living the American Dream.
Like the rest of us, they are experiencing the effects of the stay-in, which has been strongly recommended by our top scientists. While they have been self-quarantining at home, I think they (probably more my daughter, since my son-in-law maintains the pool and yard) are discovering their back yard for the first time.
My daughter calls daily and talks of the good times she is having while sitting by the pool and watching butterflies graze on the milkweed plants and the birds playing chase on the pool screen. This is a first, since she did not even know butterflies were anywhere around. Another almost daily event is the family having lunch on the patio by the pool. She has named some of the different plants that bloom in pots around the pool and talked about some of trees, shrubs and flowering plants in the yard. It seems that as she talks, she is seeing it all for the first time!
There is a saying that I have heard many times and I would bet you have also: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!
May I add that “Beauty is all around you; open your eyes and see it!” Perhaps that is one of the good things that has come out of this pandemic. It has caused us to be still, do some reflection and look for the “beauty and the different” around us.