When our neighbors’ fig trees are ripe, we’re blasted with wafts of their rich, wine-like scent. It’s unmistakably potent. Then the green Japanese beetles come bumbling around knocking into things as if they were blind. The beetles like the figs too. Our neighbor, Dede, comes bearing a plastic bag of ripe fruit once a week. We eat figs daily until their purple juices leak out and the fruit flies take over. Then we, cleansing our palates on peaches that too will soon go to the fruit flies if we don’t gobble them up, wait for the next bag of figs to appear on our doorstep.
We spend many an afternoon in the front yard not because the house is hot—our AC unit in the living room and newly insulated attic are sufficient—, but because it is a place to breath. We breath in the damp air after each summer rain, a rare spectacle this time of year. We sit under the canopy of our Podocarpus trees while we cradle the children on our laps and watch the lightening strike in the south. We count, bracing for the thunder and the children’s reactions. We convinced them that this was a marvelous display of power.
We reside in the front yard because it is where our little life intercepts the outside world. It is both our stage and our front row seats to our children’s play and our lives on display. From there we watch the muddy rain water plowing down the street gutters, and we watch the rainbow in the east where the shafts of evaporating precipitation never reach the ground. We watch boiling cumulonimbus over the San Bernardino Mountains. Those roiling white clouds tower high in the late afternoon, brilliant white against the vibrant blue sky.
I lie on a packing blanket on the grass and pretend the tree branches overhead are a vertical field of swaying brush. The criss-crossed stripes of blue sky are lakes, and the jet planes are great white-bellied whales. I may manage to read a few paragraphs of Elizabeth Gouge’s Scent of Water or scribble a few notes in my journal.
Lee runs through the sprinklers or invents new ways to travel down our Playschool slide or uses PVC pipes as hedge trimmers. Rose waddles about the yard, sticking various things into her mouth or watching Lee perform new tricks. Her exploration of the yard always brings her back to home base: me. She slaps her hands on my chest and then rests her temple there or she’ll straddle my belly and jump up and down.
Our neighbors come and go. They smile at us from across the street or speak gobbledygook to Rose. I see the joy in their faces when they see us. It’s like when I take both children out in the double stroller. I’ll pass by two middle-aged ladies who will see nothing but that stroller. And when I near them, one will exclaim, “Oh, there are two!” as if nothing could be more wonderful.
And every other day—no, day is too broad—every other moment I think the same. Nothing could be more wonderful.