I've been meaning for months now to photograph the backyard in it's completion. As it finally came together (like things do) at the tail end of closing escrow. Every detail and neglected corner - which we had to come to accept as glaring interruption to an otherwise perfectly constructed out door space - fixed or finished. The corner rock sealed at the fountain, the raw beams painted in the island kitchen, the weeds stripped, the beer tap adjusted.
A yard we inherited as it's first time owner, looking just as bare and soulless as the rest of the house, with a dirt lot and a massive slope and not a single tree in sight.
It took him nearly a decade - in spite of me always in protest of a downscaled vision. Like I've mentioned here before, I don't mind a simple, overgrown yard with some character, especially when it means a completed result. Whereas Mike is fine with a never ending evolution and is fond of more sophisticated concrete layouts and multi layered landscape. He cut into half the slope the first year we were there and built a second level poured with concrete, where you could climb a few stairs and sit by the fire place or atop the table for lunch.
The playhouse, the zip line, the hand built furniture, it all came later.
His beloved Olive tree - a handsome anchor to the center of the space, looking proud and flawless that morning in spite of all the inflictions it suffered throughout the years because of the regular rotation of reckless children wielding bee bee guns, rope, and arrows. Breaking branches and disrupting planters. As pretty as he made it, it was never a practical space for kids but he dismissed the fact of it entirely because he's never been interested in catering landscape choices to meet the likes of anyone other than him. I realized that many years ago and gave up on the battles it could ignite. The treehouse was a gift to me that way.
The morning, just before I left I slipped out back to catch a last few shots of a space we loved so much. Host to countless birthday parties and summer BBQ's, taco feasts, slumber parties, camp outs one wedding, and plenty of quiet nights by the fire with wine and friends where I can still vividly recall watching through the windows upstairs as those first few summers as he wheeled Arlo around in that red barrel, stacked atop of all the rocks he had scored up the street from the hillsides when they were bare, before the housing tracks expanded, and the rock piles rich with options. Piece by piece, with the kind of patience I'll never relate to, building the yard he wanted. Sometimes with and sometimes without a clear deadline in mind.
The beauty of a space like this knowing all the love and attention that went into creating it. I've considered before what it must be like to hire contractors who show up and make things happen. Who source the materials and design the layout. And part of me thinks how great that must be, to pay someone to materialize what you keep as loosely drawn in your mind. But then again, I don't know that the same sentiment is built that way. One of the most appealing qualities for me about Mike is and always has been his dedication to building things with his own two hands. Even when it's something he isn't all that experienced in.
And sight of their three tiny hand prints, pushed with happy palms into the freshly poured concrete that July morning so many years ago being the only point of real pause for me as we were loading up. As if evidence of them being so small, and time passing so quickly, was the only thing on the property that pained me to have to leave behind. Even knowing there is so much more ahead of us.
Starting from scratch and breathing new life into whatever space we find next. This time with those same palms now big and strong enough to lend him some help.