Over the past couple of weeks, Henry and I have basically completed a transformation of our front yard. In honor of Earth Day, I thought I might reflect out loud a bit on this process.

Many of you might recall that back in January, we had to take down two trees. In the weeks since, we’ve pulled out dying plants and weeds, cut back thorny yucca spears, and constructed a dry river of larger, smooth rocks. Then, last weekend, we had ten tons of gravel delivered and spread across the front and north side yards. Finally, we came home on Saturday from the Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society’s Earth Day sale with two ocotillos, two barrel cacti, and some smaller cacti to plant in the front yard. It finally feels finished—at least for now!

Four years ago, when we spread eleven tons of gravel in the back and south side yards (see the photo here), the front of our house looked very different. Ground cover completely concealed the rocks in the front, and the mesquite trees overshadowed flourishing agaves next to the driveway. Now, those agaves are gone because of a bug invasion. The ground cover has retreated over a series of drier years.

Of course, when some things disappear, others become more noticeable. The small saguaro hidden behind those agaves is much taller and more prominent today. The yardscape as a whole feels much more in tune with the Sonoran Desert that surrounds us. While I mourn the loss of the trees’ shade, I’m coming to accept this set of changes. (We are also investing in new windows to help keep more of the summer heat out of the house!)

All this has me thinking about the constancy of change. It’s now been a year since my father died, and it feels like I’ve experienced a lot of change. Perhaps our yard is representative of that process in some ways. Old things have passed, and new things have come. Some have been transplanted, while others have endured harsh setbacks. Sometimes we have needed others to help us along the way (with sharing sorrows and memories as well as spreading rocks!), while other aspects I’ve handled on my own.

Naturally, there is always more to be done. In addition to new windows, we need to patch cracked stucco and repaint the house—more chores that require professional assistance. One of the backyard trees that we planted four years ago needs some trimming—and I can handle that myself. It’s a dance of sorts, being aware of which tasks we can reasonably take on ourselves—especially as we age.

On this Earth Day, what are you noticing? In what ways are you “in tune” with Mother Nature and Planet Earth? What changes are you facing in your life, and how are you responding? Where do you need the help or company of others, and what aspects can you handle yourself?

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