I started this blog to share some of the thoughts I have along the journey of life. I love to travel and spend time with my family and friends. A good meal, breaking bread with those I love, gives my life meaning. So does travel. I adore dreaming of sites to visit, not just to check them off on a list. Rather, I consider myself a student of life, traveling as an explorer, to open my mind to all the possibilities the world holds in store for me and for others. I love to travel to discover how different the world is in terms of climate, cultures, politics, terrain, economy, etc. but also to discover how SIMILAR the people are. Despite language barriers, much can be communicated with a smile or gestures. Language is simply a means to communicate, yet there are so very many other ways to communicate. Once when I was in French-speaking Canada, I realized that my 7th grade French class didn’t teach me the word for “straw”. However, when I thought about it, I was able to communicate to the very French-speaking waiter in a very French-speaking restaurant about my need for a “cylinder through which to drink” in my limited French vocabulary. Travel challenges the mind and soul, stretching us to problem solve and form conclusions about all that we experience. THAT is the type of travel I enjoy best. “All’s well that ends well”, as they say………….”Life is Good” as well.
Today after seeing the partially assembled pergola in my back yard, I sat under it right after a rain shower and noticed a beautiful rainbow right above my eyes. I am so grateful to see such beauty developing right before me.
As I continued to sit under the half-constructed pergola, I couldn’t help but feel the world of possibilities developing before my eyes in my mind. How exciting it is to envision a big project such as this. I am thinking of all the ways to transform the pergola into an oasis of peace and tranquility. I’m picturing lights hanging from the pergola, maybe a candle chandelier, along with some hanging pots of orchids or new guinea impatiens. I want the pergola to evoke a sensory experience with something scented, colorful, and something I can hear. Perhaps a new set of wind chimes, too. Should I have a counter-height bistro set or a low comfortable L-shaped sectional. Should I have a few chaise lounges? There are so many possibilities to consider.
As I sit here, I remember getting excited like this when we bought our first home about a few millions of years ago. It has been quite a long time since we’ve done a project like this in our own backyard, and it feels nostalgic quite honestly.
I continue to sit, watching the darkness crawl in before my eyes while I remember a poem that describes the fog crawling in similarly on little cat feet (“The Fog” by Carl Sandburg). Sitting in front of the pond behind our house, I notice all kinds of noises and sights I don’t normally see when I sit in the screen deck by the pool. I see gnats swirling around en mass in a frenzy within some sort of twirling and twisting cloud. I see various birds taking off from the water, barely disturbing the surface as they glide gracefully into flight. I hear splashes in the water as some long-necked birds swim underwater, but it is growing too dark to tell what type of birds they are. I’m thinking they are likely either cormorants or anhingas. Both birds swim in the water, but cormorants are usually found in salt water, and anhingas are usually found in fresh water. Both have long snake-like necks, but the tell-tale sign is the beaks, which would help me identify them if it were not quite so dark. Cormorants have roundish hook-like beaks at the end, but anhingas have straight beaks, although both hunt and eat fish.
I consider myself lucky to have this little sliver of time of solitude and peace while the world is in turmoil from the pandemic around me. It helps me to find a little slice of “normal” within each day, and that means finding a little smattering of beauty before my eyes.
Life is good; life fully and completely, and find a reason to be grateful today. Try to see the beauty in something today and enjoy the moment.
Life is good; carpe diem, friends………………
Feel free to comment below with any suggestions, pictures, or ideas about how I can transform my pergola into an oasis of peace and beauty.
(Note to self: ask the landscaper trim the shrubs AGAIN)
As long as I’ve lived in our present home, five years or so, I have wanted a pergola in the worst way. No, since we bought our second house about FIFTEEN years ago, I have wanted a pergola. In our current house, we have a cement patio slab in the back yard that we rarely use, which I always thought would look great with a pergola. I thought it would center the yard and give us a purpose to venture outside of our comfortable pool screen deck area into the “real world.” Another way of stepping out of our comfort zone metaphorically. The patio is on the south side of the house, which of course in central Florida makes it hot most time of the year. My husband has pointed out that it’s nicer in the screen room, as we are free of mosquitoes when we sit there. My husband has also pointed out that with only three of us living in the house, we have PLENTY of places to sit and enjoy the moment without the addition of a pergola. I, however, pointed out that I really wanted the pergola to have a place to string those wonderful industrial “Edison” light bulb outdoor string lights that I’ve seen EVERYWHERE, and it would be great from time to time to enjoy the breeze OUTSIDE the screen, especially at night while watching the sunset over the pond behind our house. The lights were a key component to my plan, something to which I really looked forward.
Fast forward to Sunday, Mother’s Day. When I awoke, my daughter gave me a “pergola” that she had constructed from rolled paper cylinders and tape along with a beautiful card she made. I laughed and said I FINALLY got the pergola I have always wanted. Then I saw it, that wry little smile on the faces of both my daughter and my husband. They brought me out to the garage, where there was a pergola kit that my husband had purchased earlier in the morning while I was sleeping. Evidently, he wore his N99 half face mask from his garage workshop when he rented a van to drive to the store to purchase the pergola. I was speechless. It was even a GRAY pergola, the color in my head which I had recently decided I wanted. It was such a beautiful sight seeing my husband and my daughter collaborating together to make a beautiful moment. A beautiful moment for ME. It was, in the words of Raymond Carver, “a small good thing”, except this was a LARGE “good thing.”
Shortly thereafter, my husband tirelessly laid out all the parts to the pergola on the backyard grass in the hot Florida sun and began to lovingly and patiently assemble it. We had delighted in planning all the wonderful things that we could grow in pots around the pergola to make a backyard oasis, a spot of rest, relaxation, and tranquility. I became even more excited when I saw the pergola move beyond a set of boards, nuts, and bolts to really start to take shape. I have not decided yet what I want for furniture under the pergola, as I already have two large sectional seating areas and a good sized dining table near the pool already. I want this space to be somehow different as it beguiles us to sit beneath it. We decided that we want a vine-covered pergola to allow us a bit of shade, so my husband decided on a confederate star jasmine plant after a great deal of research. This plant would give us a quickly growing scented flower which grows wild in these parts and is easy to care for. We did a “curbside” pick up of two of these plants from the local nursery to get a jump start on growing them before we really need them. We are enjoying the planning process as a whole family. This gives us a new bond together, something we can call our own and can each take part in. Each of us takes turn watering the plants we have purchased for the pergola, and there is beauty in this sense of togetherness. In a sense, it is somehow like we are all breaking bread together in some way, as this is a shared experience that brings us even closer together.
As my husband and I were going for our walk last evening, I decided to check where the electrical outlet closest to the pergola site is, as this pergola has electrical outlets built into it which can be connected to a nearby electrical outlet. We have outdoor electrical outlets all around the exterior of the house, EXCEPT adjacent to the concrete patio. I laughed at myself for thinking of almost everything EXCEPT the electricity. In retrospect, I decided I didn’t want the pergola as much as I wanted the hanging lights, truth be known. It seemed, then, that my plan had the first monkey wrench thrown at it.
After just a moment more with my own thoughts, I quickly decided that life is VERY much like that pergola. We come up with a plan, sometimes in intricate detail in our lives, looking forward to a myriad of things that unfold as part of the process along the way. The pergola, like life itself, gives us a sense of purpose that we develop and nurture. We think the sky is the limit and live our lives accordingly. After all, what the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve, so it has been said. However, as life happens, sometimes there is some obstacle in our way. Something comes along that we had not planned. Something threatens to thwart our plans. We consider changing our course. We consider putting our plans aside, if even only for a short time.
However, the human spirit prevails, and the pergogla construction (and life) continues. My husband and I know we can come up with a new plan in which we can solve this issue. If we eliminate the improbable, as it has been said, what remains is the possible. We CAN make this work with a little thought and effort or we can change our thinking and our expectations. That is, we could always have a pergola without lights (not a possibility for me). We could always run an outdoor extension cord as the most obvious and quickest solution solution. Or, we could hire an electrician to put in another electrical outlet where we need it once the pandemic is over and we can have someone come into our house again. We could have him drill through the cement/block construction of our house in order to bring power from the INSIDE out. There are many ways to solve this problem, and we simply need to think about them and decide upon a solution. That’s life, isn’t it? Define the problem. Work the problem. Find the solution. It can be done, and it will be done. My motto always is, “Don’t tell me no, tell me HOW.” Sometimes, though, we have to wait just a little while for the plan to come to fruition.
Life is good. Work the problem. Find the solution. Life life fully and completely, finding something to look forward to and make it work. That’s life, in all its glory and in all its beauty.
Carpe diem, friends……find your own version of a “pergola.”
Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. These are the five stages of grief that psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross described in 1969. These are ALSO the stages of any home project, I postulate. MY home project. A couple of weeks before we decided to self-isolate in March because of the Covid-19 pandemic, I decided NOW would be a good time to re-finish an L-shaped desk that we had in our computer room. It is the perfect size for the corner in the room and is solid wood. It is so old that is is actually made in America. I had looked around for a replacement desk to update the look of the room, but the words of my father, who was king of the colloquial expressions, came to mind each and every time I entered a furniture store before self-isolation. “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” WHAT was I thinking?
I decided I just LOVED the new gray color- washed look at Pottery Barn, but they did not have a desk with the storage and configuration of my desk, which wasn’t “broke.” I decided also that I was up for the task of refinishing the L-shaped desk with two hutches myself. I had done a few pieces of furniture in the past already with Annie Sloane Chalk paint, so I was up for the project. With Annie Sloane chalk paint, one doesn’t need to strip the finish off before re-finishing the piece. I loved that idea and somehow thought it was an easy task. Because my furniture was knotty pine from the nineties, it involved a few extra steps, but I like to stretch myself beyond my comfort level from time to time. I had plenty of time in which to complete my project, and what did Annie Sloane have that I didn’t have? What does Martha Stewart have that I don’t have? Patience. Evidently they DO have a great deal that I don’t have, and ONE of those things is patience. WHAT was I thinking?
Denial. Taking over the garage with “Graph Guy’s” (my beloved husband) and my car in the driveway, I had enough space to do the project. I started the first piece and realized that the effect I was expecting to achieve ended up a bit spotty or streaky in some spots. Evidently I was distressed about the “distressed look.” Ha! I thought my results made no sense and wondered if maybe “I bit off more than I could chew” in the words of “King Colloquial.” There was some sort of mistake. Maybe I just used the wrong rag. I probably should have used the tee shirt rags. Maybe I just used the wrong paint brush. Denial everywhere. Maybe there wasn’t enough light where I was working. The desk, as I once knew it, had changed in an instant. There was no going back. I was “in it to win it” now. There must have been a mix-up; maybe I read the directions wrong as everyone else on the net that used this technique achieved stellar results! Life as I had known it had changed that first day in the garage, so I walked away. I walked away for a LONG time, maybe a couple of weeks.
Anger. Once I had settled into the actual reality instead of the reality that I WANTED, I laughed as I asked myself and “Graph Guy” what had I done? Why me? Tongue-in-cheek, I chuckled to myself thinking Elisabeth Kubler-Ross would have a field day with me now.
Bargaining. “Hey Graph Guy, want to do a little painting I asked?” I could use a buddy in the garage, “maybe you could help me, and I can help you with YOUR project (building a wooden hood for his new aquarium) later?” Then finally, “Okay, okay……I will bake you ANY dessert you want or your FAVORITE meal if you help me paint….” while hearing the words of King Colloquial in my mind each and every time. “You hired the band,” King Colloquial would always tell me, “so now you have to hear them play.” King Colloquial would often also tell me with his wry little smile that “I made my bed, so it is time to lie in it”, too. Such wisdom. Words that reminded me that this was MY project, and I needed to see it through. Graph Guy WOULD help me, but I shouldn’t have his help.
Depression. I didn’t feel anything near REAL depression, which is a serious condition, but was sad that this project was far too big for me to attempt at the moment. It was taking far longer than I thought, far longer than I wanted. I didn’t want to talk about my project, I didn’t want to even think about my project.
Acceptance. King Colloquial’s words came back to me again and again. I smiled when I heard him in my mind saying, “Quit your bellyachin’ and just do it,” with that same wry smile. He knew what had to be done. He had told me ad-nauseum when I was a child that if I spend HALF the time complaining about what had to be done and DOING what had to be done instead, the task would have already been completed by then.
I went out into the garage quietly. I picked up the paint brush quietly. I smiled to myself quietly, glad for King Colloquial’s lessons about the need for patience and perseverance. What a gift that man was. I told myself I WOULD complete the project, one side at a time. It didn’t need to be perfect; it just needed to be DONE. Funny this is a lesson I try to teach my daughter, “Teen Traveler,” ALL THE TIME. Evidently I need to learn the lesson myself first today.
THREE out of FOUR pieces completed, I am glad I took the time. They look great. I tell myself that they look great because the metric I am using is they they needed to look BETTER than they did originally in some way. I might even do my kitchen table, too…..the sky is the limit!
Life is full of trade-offs. Life is full of challenges. Life is full of less than ideal from time to time. I’m thinking that is true with our Covid-19 situation right now. Self-isolating means not sharing a meal with friends and precious extended family. Plans with precious extended family in other towns or cities have been cancelled. Bread won’t be broken together right now, jokes won’t be shared together right now. BUT at some point, life will be BETTER than it is right now. I’ll use that metric. Six feet apart is better than “six feet under” as they say.
So remind yourself to “quit bellyachin” and try to do something you need to do but don’t quite WANT to do today. Stretch yourself. Move out of your comfort zone to stretch yourself in some way. Practice patience and perseverance today. We’ll all “get there” (wherever there is) , some day, even if it is a long, long road…..
“The road is long With many a winding turn That leads us to who knows where, Who knows where. But I’m strong, Strong enough to carry him He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother...“
So on we go….we’ll get there…”
-“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” by Bob Russell and Bobby Scott
Life is good; carpe diem, friends…….
(Annie Sloane chalk paint purchased by The Purple Painted Lady at https://shop.thepurplepaintedlady.com/. She is one of the THE best sources of supplies and education/information about using Annie Sloane chalk paints on the internet. She even draws designs and pictures on her boxes before shipping to put a smile on your face when the package arrives. She often sticks in a little surprise like a can opener or a paint chart as well. Customer service here is FANTASTIC! She also operates a retail store in NY. I strongly suggest buying your paint and supplies here.)