How I hate a road trip. They all sound fun in theory, but I’ve been on enough adventures by automobile to know that the fun only lasts for a few miles and mostly occurs during the planning stage.
I come from the fly over states (and you can just keep on flyin’ over ’em, in my opinion) where the corn and soybeans grow and “good values” are treasured above all. Good values must be practiced, but that is another discussion that I won’t partake in for now. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Midwest.
I’ve traveled all over it; from the tippy top of Illinois to the tip-toe bottom of it. I have been to the Dells (not as lively as it once was) and lived in Minnesota for a few years (hell yes it’s cold. Why do you think I left?). We lived in Ohio for a short time when I was young but we didn’t fit in there. Indiana is a strange place where, only an hour or two from Chicago, they speak with a Southern accent. Iowans are somewhat ostracized from their neighbors, partly due to a perceived air of authority (don’t “come for me” over this, it’s really not worth arguing about).
There are huge differences in each of the states: what they believe in, what they eat, see, feel. I have traveled the South, too, where I often feel a sense of distrust and a fog of racism or racist ideology that is so thick a knife could cut it (again, don’t come for me. This is my thought process and some of my ideas that I’ve grown after my life experience and listening.) I don’t contend to know any answers. All I’m saying is, I’ve come to find that I’m always good where I’m at (Drake, are you influencing my writing?) and I don’t do road trips for fun anymore.
Illinois has its problems; I’ve read a lot about them. Indeed, I’m a hermit, so it wouldn’t really matter where I was. I try to find beauty in any land, in any people, in any word. Hopefully, this gives you an idea of what Invent a Place might mean, what it means to me anyway. I literally (there’s that white girl in me!) try to see my own place as beautiful, so that I don’t have to hop in the car and road trip to anywhere else.
A path is a beautiful thing. A hidden, or mysterious path is even more enchanting. A path is difficult to build, however, and takes a bit of creativity and an inventive eye. The path I created is pictured above and has cost me a lot of hard work, time, and a little bit of real money. I built its foundation by clearing a large, overgrown thicket of Japanese Honeysuckle (according to the locals this invasive plant grows everywhere here) and thick grapevines that must have lived on the property for some ten to twenty years. The vines of both the Honeysuckle and the grapevine had strangled a few small Mulberry trees and were sucking nutrients from some ornamental bushes that had been lost or forgotten over time. I’ve dug out countless roots and destroyed at least one pair of loppers (every time I chop with them, the handles slam together on my knuckles. Its very painful but I don’t understand the problem). The Mulberry trees have grown by inches, stretching out their cramped and twisted limbs in glee. Mulberries are falling now in the spring, when previously the trees had been too choked to produce anything. The soil is mostly made up of clay and hard-packed and the ground slopes down into a drainage ditch, which fills up to the top with fast moving water after heavy rains, an arroyo of sorts. This is where my compost comes in handy and I’ve purchased a lot of mulch. Flowers are finally growing here and their root processes are helping to change the concrete-like soil.
I love paths of all kinds, especially hidden and untouched deer paths. As my path began to evolve from my many trips through the disappearing thicket, I thought up some ways to improve it. Here are some of my “Must Haves” when making your own path.
Its gotta lead to somewhere. This one leads you through my rehabbed flower garden and around the back of our shed (and incidentally, towards my compost pile).
It also needs something interesting to look at on your way. I’ve planted a mix of perennials on both sides of the path: lamb’s ear, peppermint (an invasive but fragrant herb), plenty of hosta, spider-wort, and a few more of our favorite flowers. I have tentative plans for a hidden fairy garden, a bug hotel, insect watering holes, and uses for broken pots or dishes.
It needs to be somewhat defined. We first placed those pieces of wood as a border for the path. I plan to remove them but for now they help me keep the weeds where I want them and the mulch in its place. Also, those pieces of lumber have helped immensely in reminding me of my vision for the garden: where plants should go, where they shouldn’t, how far from the path, etc.
Its nice to walk on something solid. I salvaged some unused stepping stones from neighbors and re-positioned some large, flat river rocks from the yard into a gentle curve. I also used some square paving stones that were under my outdoor water spout. I have yet to dig around the stones and set them into the ground. Along my path-creating journey, I found a childhood heirloom and decided to place it in line with the other stepping stones.
You may be wondering where a person might stop to smell the flowers on this makeshift walkway. Indeed, I am missing a sitting area in this garden, along my path, but I have some solutions in mind. One involves an antique bench, painted lime green by the previous owners. For now it rests in the shade in the front of my house, a favorite spot of my husband and son, who like to sit and chat there when the weather is nice.
Finally, your path needs someone to walk on it. I initially cleaned up the huge pile of brush, tangled in with the invasive vines, the jutting roots, and the poor, straggled limbs of the Mulberrys as a way of removing hazards for my adventurous and outdoor-loving two-year old. It was a massive project from the start but its become a lovely, calming place for me and my family, though we still have a lot of inventing to do.
And nothing quite beats watching my son, now three, jump from stone to stone, reciting his numbers along our path.