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THE BACKYARD by Barbara Prince

As I prepared to send my last child off to college, I embarked upon an adventure...

I suppose this happens to many people; some may have even given this period in one’s life the title, “midlife crisis.” Crisis never came to mind. This was an opportunity to devour life anew. As part of this adventure, I set out to tread new paths, literally and figuratively, and to test a theory. My theory is that I have an undeniable and necessary connection to nature. Combining my passion for nature and my desire to tread new trails, I began hiking again. Sometimes I would go out with a friend, and sometimes I would hike alone with my mutts.

I discovered that hiking alone had consequences far beyond confirming my love of nature, and instilled within me a confidence that had unwittingly eroded when living within a box. A beautiful, stable box of carpools, doctor’s visits, caring for aging parents, and the run of the mill “first world problems.” The life I wanted. I realized that now was the time to return to the wild; even if the first trails hiked were within the sound of cars buzzing along in the distance like a motorized security blanket.

On one of my first hikes, I discovered a poem. As I stood upon the hike’s summit, the smell of sassafras permeated the air and reminded me of my childhood. The smell preoccupied my thoughts for several weeks, and after a while I realized that the smell was the haunting of a memory.

“The Backyard” encapsulates the story of my family’s lives, our relationship to the Earth, and little gifts that my father bestowed upon my sister and me. We had a tumultuous childhood, money was always an issue, and our parents eventually divorced after twenty years of marriage, but there was always love. Until that day on the small summit, I never fully understood my father’s gifts: the love of nature and all of its wonders, the simplicity of those natural gifts which connect us to something greater than ourselves, and the courage to understand that the world was ours for the taking.

When researching my poem, I was pleased to learn that Sassafras originated from a Latin word meaning “stone breaker.” Let’s just say that if you knew my dad, you’d know how appropriately this fits. I also discovered the myth that St. Patrick used wood sorrel as a metaphor to teach the pagans of Ireland about the Holy Trinity.

While I still consider myself a heathen, I am grateful to my Father for teaching me to treasure the Earth and all its mysteries.
Photography by Elena Shumilova

The Backyard
Barbara Prince

The long but narrow backyard stretched on

sunken beneath the elevated schoolyard

circular, green crater- scarred earth,

    remnants of the removed,

above ground pool

recognizable in sunlit memories and faded photographs

the garage suspended in its own disbelief

neither intact nor deconstructed,

 like their lives,

the pixy straw swing set remained

ruins of the past

testifying of the happy childhood

lightening bugs


bumble bees

he guided and goaded them to taste the treasures

that lie at their feet

sassafras twigs


wood sorrel
Photography by Lisa Holloway

Barbara Prince is an omnipotentialite. Determined and passionate advocate. Resourceful and unflinching champion who is always down for “the cause.” Creative Director of her own life. Crusader extraordinaire. Curious like a cat and a guardian of gates. Generally genuine. Upon request: Willing to make your life a living hell (that means you asked for it.) Lover of the muses. Sharp-witted and sharp-tongued. Received most of her formal religious education via Monty Python. She is an observer of the human condition, novice dog trainer, and an aspiring writer. She resides in Westmont, NJ with two, bad dogs and her husband of twenty-five years. They have two, amazing college-age children who inspire her to live life to fullest every day.

~If you are interested in seeing your poetry appear in this blog, or submitting a poem by a woman that has inspired you, please click here for submission guidelines. I greatly look forward to hearing from you!~


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