Escaping out the Back Door

Until recently, it meant a lot to me to get away. I’d head out for camping trips in the Sierra or the Southern California deserts, or road trips to the Southwest or the Northwest, propelled by a need to escape the city and the demands of my daily life. I especially loved to cut loose from phones and email and luxuriate in natural surroundings, whether in the peaceful desert or by a rushing stream surrounded by greenery and wildlife.

But I’ve been noticing an odd shift: I no longer felt the need to escape dramatically. I find myself spending hours each day in my yard, which feels every bit as good as my favorite camping spots, but without the unpredictability of blaring radios or packs of hunters drinking copious quantities of beer around the campfire.

In warm weather, I love to sit in my backyard “oak room,” where sheltering branches of a venerable California Black Oak spread out and down to create a big living umbrella. Just over the back fence is a seasonal creek, its banks lined with lush shrubs and trees teeming with birds (I live in a suburban tract house, by the way; I chose it well).

In the oak room, I bask in the smells of sun-warmed leaves and soil, the sounds of birds and flowing water, the feel of dappled shade and warm dry air on my skin, the sights of leaves, flowers, hills, and sky. I’ve moved a picnic table to the oak room, and I often eat lunch there in the middle of my work day; it’s amazingly refreshing. I love to bring my laptop out with me and work on writing projects in paradise.

Sometimes, at the end of the work day, I retire to the oak room and tip back my reclining camp chair, gazing up into the branches of the oak tree. The bird life up there is constantly entertaining and changing—a show I’d never see by looking out my kitchen window.

This experience is the result of a lifetime of noticing what I love and gradually homing in on an environment that nourishes my soul. My search criteria when seeking this home included relative quiet, sunshine, abundant plant life, and the rest of the natural tapestry that follows. I’ve enhanced what I found here to create outdoor rooms I love (more on that in future posts). In other words, it’s no accident that I find myself in this wonderful place.

So what has this done to my escape patterns? I don’t feel the crying need to get away that I used to. I still get away, but my motivations are different. Now I leave home to experience a different sensory tapestry, different weather, faraway friends, cultural events. Now when I travel it’s about more and different, not about a great need to get away.

Finding and enhancing my natural nourishment right here at home, every day, means I no longer approach my life from a place of starvation. Now I’m a happy guest at an environmental banquet, choosing among delightful options at home and away.

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  1. Valerie Vozza says:

    I can’t agree more, Carol! I live in Seattle on a small urban lot and I joke about the view of our neighbor’s gutters
    from our living room. It’s rare that we open those blinds. 🙁 One bedroom window looks out at our other neighbor’s garage and house. You get the idea. We do, however, have a private backyard thanks to a wall of bamboo and a fence. I love the sound of bamboo waving in the breeze with the birds fluttering among the branches.
    It is a small urban respite but a truly welcomed one!

    • Good work, Valerie! I’ve even been able to “reclaim” those too-close views of other buildings. A trellis, a planter box with a vine, even a little water fountain if there’s a noise issue–all can go a long way to make the best of a tight urban space. Keep up the good living!

  2. K. Hamilton says:

    Thank you, Valerie, I enjoy your posts and am very glad you are feeling better these days! Best wishes!

  3. Amen, sister!
    A really simple but profoundly effective design strategy is to have both a visual and a direct physical connection to the outdoors from a regularly-used indoor space — e.g., a glass door. That alone will get you outside more often. Even better if that glass door takes you to a spot where you can sit and enjoy nature, even just a little pocket of it.

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