Our Private Lives


Monday through Friday, I sit on my bed, with my computer on a woven tray over my lap, and work. Our bedroom window looks out onto our backyard, and I often see birds landing on a tall bush that’s right next to the window. Recently I saw a squirrel on the ground, who had evidently just buried an acorn or something, because he was tamping down dirt with his little hands/paws. We locked eyes for a moment. I think he debated digging up the acorn and moving it.

I have to let my dogs out our back door several times a day. It always seems like a chore. But the times when I choose to sit down outside and wait for them are better than when I stand in the house, waiting at the door, cajoling them to hurry up. When I sit outside and wait, I’m not waiting, I’m ‘enjoying.’ One of the first things I do is look up at the tops of the trees in our backyard, to see the wind stirring their leaves and listen to the sound it makes. I like that the tops of the trees are removed from the concerns of earth, that they’re just up there, in their own environment—the sky—and have no knowledge of or care for what is happening down here. There are a ton of birds, flitting among the branches of a big, bottlebrush tree on the left side of our yard, and their tweeting is ludicrously loud. They sound nuts. Happy and busy. I love that they also don’t care what is happening with humans. They’re just chirping away, finding stuff for nests, flying here and there, going about their lives completely indifferent to us.

I always resist sitting outside with the dogs but when I do, I’m always glad I did. This is probably pointless to talk about, because it has to just be experienced firsthand, but nature is restorative. So, why do I fight it? Why don’t I just step outside our back door more often?

Probably because it’s not “productive.” But recently, it occurred to me that I should probably spend as much time as possible doing things that are not productive, that are not a stepping stone to anything, that offer no financial gain: Sitting in nature admiring the sights and sounds, petting our dogs, making art that won’t necessarily be sold to anyone, talking to friends, putting on a good song and dancing with a niece/nephew/friend’s child.

I guess these kinds of activities constitute tending our private garden. And I guess it’ll always be tempting to believe that time spent doing more ‘productive things,’ like, say, tending one’s public image, will bring more happiness.

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