This is what I see in the morning. I walk into the living room and look out the window that frames our backyard like a zoo exhibit. It’s what I see throughout the day, as I walk from my office to the kitchen and back again. The window’s always there, the hill is always there, how do I not look out?
But what am I even looking at? Usually I glance, sometimes I stare… at the vine maple on the left? The sprouted California poppies I planted too late on the hill? The tangled hawthornes I’ve left in the back for birds? The red Japanese maple on the right, stretching around the lilac? There’s the white foxglove in the middle that showed up one day, as they do, and grew to be seven-feet tall. Or is it just the random sunflower that popped out of the loose dirt of the terrace I’m making? It’s all of this.
And maybe none of that.
Shooting up and out from the living room, our backyard is a ramp to never-ending sky. There’s no man-made interruptions from this angle, but all summer long the Douglas firs and red oak reach out and do their best to narrow the view. The sun finds new ways in, tracking from left to right during the season. It sheds light on the chosen plants and the wild ones, with no regard to my priorities—which are in flux anyway.
Daily, and in new ways, I imagine how this view might become filled with flowers, shrubs, and at least one more dramatic tree. For every combination of plants that I consider staging up the slope, I concentrate and imagine their size over time—in ten years, in twenty years. It’s a planning challenge like none I ever faced as a print designer. I built templates for years and even the most flexible versions were still contained by the bindery blade. They may have had room to grow, but within. And my responsibility was to the efficiency of the day, the week, the month. Outside, it’s toward the decade. 2017 is also 2037.
A horticulturist is a kind of futurist: you planted yesterday, you planned for tomorrow. Soon I’ll stop at the window again and look out at the space, the sum of the yard. I’ll mostly see time.