The Beauty of Concrete Gardens

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sidewalk chalk

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Adam Blust

I have always loved the summer. In my childhood, when the final school bell signaled two and a half months of freedom, I knew that our family would soon be heading down to South Carolina to visit my aunt and uncle on the Little Pee Dee River. We spent our summers at their house on the river and filled our days with simple things like swinging in the hammock, eating watermelon on the pier and floating with the current on our inner tubes and rafts. I have such wonderful memories of those summers. I miss the people and I miss the simple.

Many years have passed and times are different. Sometimes I think we’ve forgotten how to find joy in the simple things – the quiet things – the things that don’t require an app, an itinerary, a ticket or a reservation. I believe that some of the most unforgettable experiences can be the ones that take the least amount of preparation. The memories that tug at your heartstrings and take your breath away when you remember they can be the things that you just happened upon as you were walking through a typical day. I think back on summers with my children and some of our happiest moments were spent growing concrete gardens, laughing through trampoline picnics and splashing around in truck-bed swimming pools. Simple things, but invaluable things.

When my kids were little, the long summer days could be a challenge. Occasionally, boredom would sneak in and he almost always brought his friends “grumble and mischief” with him. We would have to find something to do before we all went crazy! I remember how simple things would step in and save the day time and time again.

With chalk in hand, we became an army of master gardeners, covering our driveway with colorful flowers and trees. We would trace each other in different positions on the ground and create a colorful, outlined family in the middle of it all. I wouldn’t trade those concrete gardens for the most beautiful gardens in the world.

With baskets in hand, we became a traveling group of gypsies, wandering through our backyard searching for a place to stop and have a bite to eat. We would spread blankets on the trampoline and share lunch together, trying not to roll onto our sandwiches or bounce on our potato chips. I wouldn’t trade those trampoline picnics for the most prestigious restaurants in the world.

With garden hose in hand, we became members of the Olympic swim team, lining the truck bed with a huge blue tarp and filling it up with water for a makeshift pool. There was splashing and laughing and water everywhere. I wouldn’t trade that truck-bed swimming pool for a stroll along the most picturesque lakes in the world.

I wouldn’t trade those simple things we did together because they are irreplaceable. They are uniquely ours and have an exclusive place where they hang in the gallery of my most precious memories. There are days when I long to look out my window and see a concrete garden growing on my driveway, but the truth is, all I have to do is close my eyes. In my mind, I can still see it – as plain as can be – in all of its sweet and simple beauty. I visit those times often and pray that my children will always come back to them in their minds, too.

This summer, take time to invest in the simple. Put aside the phone, the computer, the television and look for ways to find joy in real things. Discover happiness in uncluttered spaces and in unplanned adventures. Spend time with the people you love and don’t make it complicated. Think about these words from Laura Ingalls Wilder, “It is the sweet, simple things of life, which are the real ones after all.”

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