It wasn’t on purpose, it just happened…frankly, it never occurred to me. Not once did I imagined that I would be like one of those people. Is it age, culture, or propensity?
Living in the myopic world of an eight year old, my grandfather intrigued me. His ways were foreign. My grandfather didn’t speak English; you see, I’m a second generation daughter of Polish immigrants.
I never knew my grandmother, she died 6 years before my mother married my father, a man who was a son of a mixed-culture of immigrants. My dad was a wonderful dish scooped from the melting pot. My parents further stirred the pot when they married and had children, as did I when I married another mixed-culture with Scottish decent. We didn’t biologically add to the melting pot. We didn’t cook, anyway; rather, we adopted our children. In doing so, we went full circle in the cultural mix as our children are of Hispanic descent; only a half blend, but a wonderful feast to share with our family tree.
All this to say that I have a new space under a pair of summer shade trees.
My first encounter of a person sitting outside in the cool shade of a large canopy tree was from an old immigrant. @HelenYoest Click to Tweet!
As most any eight-year old might presume, this must have been something people did in the old country. I’ve often wonder if the image of my grandfather sitting out back of his Riverside, NJ home, near the grapevine, by the shed that had a coffee grinder on the far wall, touched me to the point of reliving any outdoor scene where food was involved. I can clearly picture him sitting in a chair, legs crossed, just staring at the ground. He was in his eighties. To him, it was a matter of just being outside. Not cooking out. Not kicking a ball with the kids. Not gardening, even, but enjoying the outdoor space just by sitting under the canopy of a shade tree.
Since my grandfather’s time, I’ve associated this type of behavior with people from countries other than America. Of course Americans sit outside, but not like in the manner of people from other countries. We tend to have a distinct indoor and outdoor flair. While we like to bring the outdoors in, for the most part, we aren’t as comfortable bringing the indoors out.
Some of my favorite movie scenes are of Europeans eating outside. A table would be pulled from the kitchen with cloth to cover it, slightly off kilter, and everyday china and crystal on the table top. A rug might even be brought out along with candles and music and books and wine. If the weather was right, time was spent outdoors. It didn’t even have to be during the evening, it could be any meal, any time. In my book, this is living.
When we built the back porch, I envisioned every meal to be taken outside. It turns out I am the only one in the family that really likes to do this. It’s lonely out there.
Years later, something interesting happened. As the time came to take down the kids playground and put up The Love Shack, and then later
the chicken coop, I noticed something that I never expected. The Crape Myrtles (Lagerstroemia x ‘Natchez.’) I planted to frame The Love Shack had matured to a fine state, as did the red Maple (Acer rubrum ‘October Glory’). This maturity caught me off guard.
I planned the placement of those trees with other perspectives in mind, not for the sake of the playground, but from the view of the back porch. So when I stepped in the footprint of the former play set, I realized there was a new space. I’m not sure I could have planned it so well, and I’m also not sure I would have thought I needed to.
The new space is in the ell of the chicken coop and the garden house, and it’s shaded by the mature trees. It now sports three chairs and a fire pit. Only three chairs because that is what I had on hand. See, I didn’t go out and buy anything for this new space, I just pulled from other areas of the garden. I friends come over and I need more chairs, I’ll bring those from the inside of the house.
This space is completely private, without a garden to speak of other than some plantings around Tiny Tara, the name of our coop. I knew it was a special place the first time I saw it all coming together.
Recently a garden photographer from Scotland was visiting. The first night we had dinner and conversation on the back porch. The next night, we had dinner on the porch, but then we took our conversation to the fire. The evening was magical. There is not other way to describe it. A fire adds so much mystery to a room, a space, an area. My pit is crude, nothing fancy like Americans like to do, making something for the outside to look like something we have on the inside. Instead, it’s just made from a makeshift large copper tray sitting on top of some found rock. It is nothing short of perfection to me.
Now I’m one of those people who sits outside, with my legs crossed looking down at the ground or the fire or the chickens or whatever else my catch my fancy. It’s not an event, it’s just a place to pass time, no different than sitting in a favorite arm chair or couch to read or watch a movie. Instead, I sit outside because I prefer to read and watch my life instead of someone else’s. And Pepper is always with me.
From Septembers through May, on Sundays my day in the garden, you’ll find me with a fire going. Join me sometime. I’ll make the time to sit with you in this special place so you can see first hand the magic of finding solace in the most unexpected places.