Experiments

My yard says, ‘Welcome!’

Andy Wade knocked down fences, planted herbs, and started a community library in his front yard to help foster community. Credit: Andy Wade

This past year I’ve been exploring what it means to welcome both God and others into my garden.

Welcoming God seemed easy; I just needed to create spaces in the yard that encouraged meditation, that stimulated my heart to give thanks as I celebrated the amazing gift of creation.

But when I turned to my front yard I discovered boundaries. House after house in our neighbourhood has a fence, a wall, or hedgerow that clearly defines where the boundary lies. You may walk by on the sidewalk, but this part is mine. Even when we don’t overtly express this possessive nature, how we landscape gives very powerful non-verbal messages.

This got me thinking, “What if I re-imagine our front yard as a space of welcoming? What would that look like?” And so the journey began. We already planned to do away with the front lawn, replacing it with an edible landscape. But scheming with neighbours in mind, we tore out the row of shrubs that created a wall between the sidewalk and our home. We replaced them with a wavy pattern of paths leading from the sidewalk right into the front yard.

We placed a bench along the path not too far in from the sidewalk. Next to it will go a “Little Free Library,” a place to exchange books with our neighbours. In a section bounded by the sidewalk and the path, we’re growing herbs. This is our public sun tea garden, a place of invitation to pick mints, lemon balm, chamomile, and other herbs for making tea.

When our next door neighbours Gary and Sandy moved in over a year ago, thorny roses bordered our property line. I decided it would be fun to plant espalier apple trees instead. I talked to them about this plan, explaining that the trees might encroach a bit over the property line once mature, but that they would be more than welcome to pick the fruit. Their response? “Let’s get two – we’ll pay half!”

What began as an attempt to welcome neighbours into our yard evolved into a conspiracy to collaborate as friends. It’s exciting, this commitment to friendship and to place. Over the years, as the trees grow and thrive, I look forward to allowing my own roots to stretch more deeply into this place I call home. I look forward to discovering with my neighbours new ways to overthrow the status quo of uprootedness and self-sufficiency. And I look forward to sharing sun tea and books and a feast of abundant fruits lovingly nurtured, over time, by the tenacity of friendship.

Andy Wade, a former pastor and missionary with the Mennonite Church who currently works with Mustard Seed Associates in Seattle, Washington.

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  1. When I read about Andy’s house, I was reminded of the table and chairs that are set in a little parcel of nature next to the Hood River, Oregon public library. That small space, nestled between the library, a big house (that includes a business) and across the street from the several more businesses, is priceless. Many mornings, I sit there and listen to the wind as it whispers through the old brown leaves that are now sleeping on the trees. I look at the plants that are bowing to the winter season and gaze at the geese as they pull their animated “V” across the sky. And I have begun to notice that people, who have no barrier to deal with, are now beginning to notice me. They wave or stop and say “hello” and let me pet their dog. Andy is onto something, alright…and how very gratifying it is to know that it is now happening in his own front yard.

    Ruthie Rader On The Path To God December 25th, 2014 3:06am

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Issue 35, Fall 2014

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