top of page

A Joy Experiment

We moved into our home in May of 2019, just two weeks before our middle son, Phoenix, was born. We didn’t aim for that timing, but sometimes life throws you curveballs. The following year COVID hit, and we knew we wanted a better outdoor space to spend time with people, so we schemed to pour a concrete patio and build a pergola with hanging lights.

I love our little imperfect backyard. It’s my cozy little oasis, even if we have mostly clover instead of grass (go pollinators, right?!). Because having anything close to grass is impressive given that our backyard is nearly all rock.

After pouring the patio, we had this little awkward square of grass and I had this dream: what if it was filled to the brim with wildflowers? Eli graciously dug out the grass–some of the best grass in the whole yard, somehow–and we scattered a few packets of wildflower seeds.

Sprouting Joy

That first year, some weeds sprung up and I didn’t really know how to tell the difference between weeds and plants. I faithfully watered a ragweed plant until it became as high as my hip before realizing I was wildly allergic. I downloaded a plant identification app, pulled all the weeds, and still had a decent amount of actual plants grow up. I really enjoyed it.

The next year, I scattered more seeds, hoping to fill in the square a bit more. As the plants grew, I visited them nightly after bedtime with our kids, even though they’re wildflowers, so they really don’t need much tending. But they made me so happy. It was me who needed the visits, not them.

This spring little starts sprung up in the square. There were so many of them, I assumed they were all weeds. But you know what? They were actual, beautiful flowers coming in, all without anything from me. I pulled out my plant app and started identifying plants, remembering the names from years past, and feeling my excitement grow as they did. Now as I write this, most of the flowers have bloomed I can’t believe how happy these $20 worth of seeds have made me.

Blooming Joy

This year many of my Black-Eyed Susans spread and filled much of the bed. They have slowly opened their blooms over the past two weeks and because there are so many, I’ve been paying attention to their differences. Some have such tiny petals and some grow much bigger. Some have beautiful red almost painted around the center, and some are plain yellow. Their slight differences make me appreciate them even more. I have so many of these plants that I keep offering to share them with people in the fall.

I know I turned into some sort of Plant Lady because I want to show my wildflowers to everyone. My mom is always happy to talk plants and a few friends on Marco Polo graciously receive garden tours. I have even posted videos on Instagram that are followed by DMs from friends asking for the names of flowers. If you’ve come over in the summer, I’ve probably walked you over to see it. It’s like for the joy to really take hold, I have to tell others about it.

I see that in my kids too–especially Phoenix. He never just wants to tell you something. He always wants you to “come over here and look!” He loves to keep tabs on blooming flowers and walk me over to them. He even planted two sunflowers from preschool that he has loved walking us over daily to see how much they’ve grown.

I was sort of nervous when we dug out the grass and scattered the first seeds. We didn’t know if it would work, and I thought that many of the flowers from seed wouldn’t take but I’m so glad I took the chance.

A few scattered seeds have given me immense hope for beauty to grow.

Something to tend to.

Something to look forward to.

Propagating Joy

I couldn’t have guessed how beautifully this joy experiment would grow and swell and take up space both in our little dirt square and in my heart. (Okay, I know that’s cheesy but I can’t help it!)

I really don’t like taking chances, even on something low-risk like a little flower bed. I am incredibly risk-averse, and it often holds me back from trying new things just because I’m not sure how it will turn out. Heck, I just went to Costco for the first time with friends and the first thing I told them was, “I’m really nervous to walk in there.” But I want to remind myself of this little joy experiment of a wildflower bed. It turned out so much better than I could have imagined.

Will every new, uncertain thing be that way?

I don’t think so, but I do know that unexpected beauty is often found with a little risk.

Where could you take a chance to scatter some beauty that might surprise you?

Maybe it’s seeds, like me. Maybe it’s sharing your words for the first time, making a new friend, inviting neighbors over for a cookout, or baking someone treats, just because. Maybe you pick a new hobby to sink yourself into, just to enjoy.

I hope it blooms into a beautiful joy experiment, just like my wildflowers.


bottom of page