– Necessary flaws

Bird party on September 19th

This afternoon I set up the sprinkler, turned it on, and forgot about it. An hour later, Grace pulled me to the window, pointed to the end of the driveway, and said, “I think the birds think it’s a birdbath.” Indeed, there were several little ones, touching down and splashing in the inch or two of water that had accumulated in the seam where our driveway meets the sidewalk.

A few years ago we replaced the cracked and heaving driveway that seemed original to the house (1930s). The paving contractor jackhammered, cleared, and carefully graded a new footprint before pouring a truckload of cement onto a bed of compressed sand and gravel. Jack, the owner, who was on the job constantly, promised a pristine surface, free of the mud- and ice-collecting potholes and cracks that characterized our old driveway. And when it dried, it looked good. And then it rained, and we noticed that “perfection” came with a few flaws, noticeably some shallow dishes in the driveway that collected a skim of water when it rained. We debated calling the contractor back and demanding a touch-up.

I don’t remember why, but we let it go. Today I was reminded of how cosmetic flaws can turn into features, ones that capture run-off from the lawn, bathe birds, delight a child, and, in turn, give me something to think about.

KilimanjaroAnd furthermore, the birds have done a lot of work in our yard, scattering seeds and berries all over the place, causing some annuals — like Euphorbia marginata Kilimanjaro — to come back, unexpectedly and in surprising places, year after year. The birds deserve their afternoon refreshment.

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