All of the Pleasure, None of the Work

There's a 24-acre farm behind my house.  I love this a great deal.  In fact, sometimes as I let my gaze span across their hillside acreage, I pretend that I own this farm, down to the one time that I renamed the horses they had been boarding.

We've lived in our house for 11 years, and I still can't get over it.  I'm less than five minutes from a grocery store, a gas station, a Wal-Mart, and a shopping plaza, yet I also get to enjoy a farm that I don't need to maintain.  I reap all of the aesthetic pleasure, yet do none of the work.  It seems entirely unfair, like a gift I can't pay back.

Tonight as my kids were taking their baths and the evening was drawing to a close, Joel and I walked our own yard.  It's a beautiful space unto itself, one that's doubly enhanced by the farm's rolling hills. 

I thought back to how my youngest daughter's friends automatically clamored to the fence during her birthday party a few weekends ago, eager to see the newborn calves.  This is a sight for people.  It's not a typical backdrop to a backyard, and I don't want to forget it.  I don't want to ever get used to it.

So, on evenings like tonight as I walk along our gardens, noticing that the peonies are nearly past their prime, I pay close attention to what I see.

I notice the details that make us want to linger a little longer, like the bridge that invites kids (and adults alike) to walk over it.

Or the garden stools that say, won't you sit here for a while?

I notice how the clematis climbs its metal trellis,

and how the lace-leaf Japanese maple arcs over the bicycle decoration that my mom gave me.

I think about how colors compliment each other -- how purple and coral pop against a green backdrop,

and how the best lighting always comes right before the sun sets.  I see the little details when I slow down and remember to look, to really look. 

Years ago, I read a blog by a woman who was seeking advice from her counselor about happiness.  What do you envision a happy life to be?  What do you envision a happy home to look like? the counselor had asked.  Once the woman had envisioned her happiest self and home (it included baking cookies with her children), the counselor encouraged her to do those things.

This always has stuck with me.  What is my happiest vision for my home?  It's my kids playing outside, my neighbors dropping by to talk, and the people I love wanting to be together.  It's adding small beautiful touches, both inside and outside my home.  It's (trying to) keep things organized and simple enough that I'm not buried by or beholden to stuff.  It's reading good books, and being productive, and having some creative outlets.  It's working hard, but not being a slave to work so I still have the best of me to give when I'm home.

Tonight, as I walked my own backyard, looking at its quaint details and regarding the farm that I plan on always pretending to own, I realize that my vision of a happy life also includes taking evening walks with my husband around our yard during the spring and summer months.

It includes noticing and slowing down and not taking for grantedAfter all, perhaps the best way to pay back for this gift -- all of the pleasure, none of the work -- is simply to enjoy it.

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