Wendell Berry has stated: "My most inspiring thought is that this place, if I am to live well in it, requires and deserves a lifetime of the most careful attention." Most of us take for granted the many mysteries and marvels of the place where we live. We grow so familiar with its repeated sights, sounds, and smells that they no longer even register on our senses. But deep inside our souls, we cherish the place where we live and are glad for its blessings.

Robert Benson, a devotional writer and retreat leader, is a connoisseur of the places in his life. In his last book, Home by Another Way: Notes from the Caribbean, he took his hat off and tipped it in a salute to a favorite island he and his wife regularly visit. In this enchanting paperback, Benson recounts how his family moved back into the city from suburbia, turning a 1910 cottage in an old Victorian neighborhood in Nashville, Tennessee, into a home. Always one to write with attention to detail, he notes his fondness for sidewalks, an old tree, front porches, and walking to restaurants. He builds a writing studio out back, supervises the installation of a water fountain, and helps his wife create a flower garden.

Benson exudes joy in having a place of his own that he can shape and tend with his body, mind, and soul. He humorously describes a long project of building a fence with the help of his two children. It takes much longer than expected. It brings to mind experiences he had with his father and turns out to be a chance to harvest memories of his own childhood. Next comes putting in flowerbeds which Benson sees as a chance to eliminate the endless upkeep of a lawn. When roses arrive, it is like a royal ceremony welcoming New Dawn, Madame Hardy, Empress Josephine, and Granny Grimmetts. Luckily, the topsoil in the yard is rich and fertile. But Benson blows out his knee planting and has to miss a softball season.

This is only the beginning of the author's ambitious home improvement campaigns. A windfall check arrives from a project and enables Benson to hire some people to build his writer's studio at the back of the garden. It serves as a retreat, a sanctuary, a library, and a storage facility. He writes of the room:

"It is also the place I go to dig around with a pen each day, plant a word or a sentence, and see if something will grow and if it might become something beautiful.

"A garden is not a bad place for such a place. Gardens are about waiting and about hope as much as they are about anything."

Two final additions to the Benson home are a fountain that looks like it belongs in the French Quarter and a swimming pool. Naturally this little slice of paradise also makes an ideal spot for garden parties, although the author characterizes himself as shy and a lover of peace and quiet.

Robert Benson reminds us what we too often forget — that the ground we walk upon is sacred. With the eye of a novelist and the playfulness of a poet, he tutors us in the art of really knowing the place where we live and celebrating the wonders in our own backyards. Come, join Benson under the maple tree and take in the bounties.