Without knowing why, I started building paths in the yard.

We’ve been on this property for six years, digging, clearing, planting. This spring, among the flowers, I saw path possibilities. Tiny ones.

Path length doesn’t matter. It’s a way in and a way out, leading to a place ahead.

And to a place inside yourself.

Paths require rocks. That first year here, I bought sandstone from a farmhouse being torn down. I couldn’t explain why I needed them, but I knew I did.

Just like my parents.

A creek ran behind my childhood home, a new brick ranch with an empty yard. My parents planted trees and shrubs, created gardens, and took a wheelbarrow to the creek to gather rocks for bordering their flowers and vegetables. I walked those stones in my small bare feet, imagining tales of castles and queens.

A path always has a story.

So that’s why I’d needed those farmhouse rocks.

For my first attempt here, I carved the ground cover into swirls, threading a way through the day lilies to the rabbit statue Maggie found long ago. As soon as we entered the garden store, she rushed toward it. Kneeling beside it, she stroked its head. Because his story called, her tiny toddler feet found the path.

When we moved again, we built a path through our backyard. She walked up and down those rocks, passing her rabbit. She played with water and sand hauled in buckets that she and her friends carried up and down the path. Surely there were stories.

At our next house, we set the Asian statue she named Lady Chang under a tree, secure among tulips and river rocks. Now surrounded by hostas, the statue has a path of her own again.

And Maggie is grown and gone, on a path offering a different story.

Now I see I’ve built these paths here for me. They mark leaving and returning.

We cleared the last wild space here recently. This new ground wants a tree and flowers and a path. Heaven knows, we still have rocks for traveling the distance to find the story.

Because a path always has one.

12 thoughts on “Paths

  1. That is so lovely, Karen. I am planning on slowly ripping out my front yard to build a xeriscape with paths (that way the postman, delivery guys and whatnot can stop cutting across the would-be grass 😉

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    1. I think you’re right about the delivery people. A path is magical. Creatures (of every size and shape) can’t resist it. We feel the pull to follow it. We want desperately to be on it. Sometimes I wonder if we carry a genetic, ancestral code for stepping onto paths.

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  2. So profound. You are a gentle guide on a wonderful journey. I can’t remember if we read Camus with you, but I always feel I get to walk beside you.

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    1. I value your comment because that’s always my aim–connecting with a reader who appreciates discovering along with me. Ordinary places and moments reveal incredible magic. By the way, I think Camus was part of Senior English.

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  3. I also love paths. I used to watch the deer come up their path from the woods, at the end of which was a long planter box by the front door, where I tried in vain to grow flowers. We called it their salad bar. They loved it.
    Lady Chang is going to be in a wonderland when those hostas get bigger and bloom!

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    1. I love your deer, despite the damage they caused. As we say in our family, “Everyone needs lunch.” Because we live on the edge of woods, deer appear at midnight once the streets are silent. They nibble the hostas outside our fence. In grade school, Maggie rescued Lady Chang from a sale table of random stuff. Because the statue looked sad, Maggie believed setting her in the garden would brighten her spirits. You’re certainly right about the joy she’ll experience among the stalks of white flowers.

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  4. Your wonderful “paths” vision reminds me of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”. Life’s paths lead many ways; in many directions. Thank you for these insightful words of wisdom.

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    1. Yes, I was thinking of Frost’s two roads when I wrote this. Surely, we “took the one less traveled by,” when we moved here. But it is glorious because this is where I finally believed I had the capacity to garden by watching you manage all your lovely spaces–the inspiration I needed. (And thanks for helping me place the rabbit. His appearance heralds the arrival of summer in my heart.)

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  5. I created my first path about a month ago. Made of mostly found field stone with moss in between, it leads to a new shade garden, and looks so much more inviting than the worn grass path it replaced. And yes, of course, bunnies are waiting among the hostas and painted ferns.

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