I had a great uncle who never had children, and though I remember him fondly I do recall how particular he was.  Everything, it seemed was in order, his garage (unlike my own) was adorned with peg board and everything hung neatly in it’s place, his tools were always thoroughly cleaned before being put away, and his yard…oh his yard, I never remember seeing it when it wasn’t neatly manicured.  He mowed it with one of those old push mowers with a cylinder type blade and no engine. It was always fun to watch him mow, though I was eternally grateful that my family had a more modern mower.  But what I remember most about his lawn is that his great nieces and nephews never played in it.   I did jump in his yard once, only once.  As I landed my heel turned up a small clump of dirt, and I was greeted with a stern scolding. I don’t think I ever played in his yard again.

In my mind I contrast that with a house near us where the yard is seldom mowed.  The grass grows a couple feet high before it’s cut down, and then for the next few weeks the yard is full of clumps of rotting grass, that lie there until they are finally overtaken by the new growth and then the whole process starts over again.  In its unkept state it is likely infested with rodents, bugs and tiny reptiles, and it will certainly never know the laughter of playing children until it’s given some much needed attention.

I was reminded of both yards last week as I watch my children play in our lawn with some friends.  The common threads that connect these two lawns  are: the emptiness of  yards without children and the need for balance.

By definition balance means to be in a state of equilibrium.  In practical application it is equality between the totals of two sides.  Balance is something I’ve struggled with in my own life.  So I know all too well of the temptation to obsess or to be neglectful and find ourselves out of balance.

If you walked though my yard today, you would find that it has been given the necessary attention, recently mowed, and trimmed, though interspersed in the spread of Kentucky Blue Grass you’d also find a good share of dandelions, clumps of crab grass, and some spots that have been trampled down or turned up by the dozen or so teenagers who laid siege to my yard last week during a party hosted by my children.  But for me, the imperfections are not scars on the landscape of my yard, but trophies of love, they are not cause to grumble, but reasons to smile.

As I walked through my yard the morning after the party, I also noticed the grass beneath the three swings in our back yard.  Just a few short years ago the ground there was bare. Now it’s almost grown over and soon the only reminder of the heels that drug across there more times than anyone knows will be the small ruts that remain beneath the swings.  More than just a warm reminder of my children’s play, the ruts to me are a reminder to be a good steward of all we possess, so that it in turn doesn’t possess us.

My uncle’s yard never had a rut that I’m aware of, nor did it ever resound with the laughter of children at play.  My yard will never make the cover of Home and Garden, but this I know, time flies, children grow and ruts beneath the swings….well they are the frames that hold a thousand precious memories.

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