Nature is waking up now, all right. Even inside the house, ants trudge by bearing bread crumbs. Moths flit past, dreaming of snacks in God knows what cabinet or drawer.

But all the real action? The real action is out of doors, in whatever passes for a yard behind your place, be it the green lawn stretched smooth as a roll of linoleum or the ten square feet where you set down your chair.

Out there, a festival of life goes forward. Dandelions toss their heads. Ladybugs scoot like tiny VW’S. And slugs, the evicted snails of Michael Pollan’s description, kindly roto-till your soil for you.

Pollan recalls all sorts of back yard pleasures in his charming book Second Nature – like the elaborate water gardens he and a pal fashioned with a hose. And what kids haven’t found delight in watching streams of water snake past patches of earth, then pool about their small damp sneakers?

When he tired of the water gardens, Pollan writes, he ripped them out and built a cemetery in their place, which filled up, over time, with a somber clientele of house pets: turtles and baby ducks; hamsters and gerbils; canaries and chicks, each with a cross planted over it. A Star of David was beyond his carpentry skills, he remarks dryly. As a child growing up Jewish, he was inclined to think of pets as gentiles anyway, since “the Other in all its forms was presumed to be Christian.”

Ah, the animals’ burying grounds! I think of writer Jack Erdmann’s childhood memory of his little neighbor in the 1930’s who, burdened with grief at the loss of a litter of baby bunnies, buried them with their heads above ground, pretty as they were, all in a row, like little pansies.

I think of my own yard as a kid, the tiny graves crowded not just with crosses but Holy Cards too, pictures of all those faintly cross-eyed, skyward-glancing saints.

The ground in your back yard feels that way to you: hallowed somehow. Hallowed even before you moved into the house it belongs to.

My first yard was no bigger than a postage stamp – but the mud pies set to baking there! Later, when we went to live with an aunt and uncle, our second yard seemed to us like a castle’s grounds, with velvet lawns meticulously tended by our uncle.

Then there was college, that Sabbatical From all Responsibility for the maintenance of the world. Then, my first yard as part of a couple, which was another postage stamp.

For a while it was postage stamp after postage stamp, ‘til we ended up in this house, with the back yard I look at today.

Over here was a ruined stone barbecue. We leveled it. Over there, a dying elm. We cut it down. A swing set arose almost of its own accord and bore heavenward tykes weighing no more than house cats. In time, the tykes became teens and sat for hours on those same swings with their friends, trailing their legs and considering Life. And in more time, the swing-set too came down again and was given to others.

Like many people, we have out back the ghosts of vegetable gardens. Some disappointed roses. And of course the graves: of parent hamsters and their doomed hamster babies. Of many worms made pets of, all unwilling; of gerbils and goldfish and a sleek white rat named Titania. All that life springing from the earth. All that life yearning back toward it.

In some climates, growth is eternal. On some planets, winter never comes. It isn’t like that here. We have a reaching up and then a bloom-time; a casting of seeds and a laying to rest.

It’s nearly bloom-time now. Just come out back and see.

©Copyright 2002-2012 Terry Marotta, All Rights Reserved.