LIFE IS LIKE A PERGOLA

pergola pieces on grass

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.

definitely a “before” picture of the patio in the back yard, SO ready for a pergola for SUCH a long time

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.”

model pergola created by my daughter, “Teen Traveler”

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.

confederate star jasmine plants for the pergola

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.

construction begins slowly, but it does begin

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.”

COPING WITH CORONA…IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS/A SMALL GOOD THING

Three shakes. A “small good thing” in the words of Raymond Carver, a contemporary short story writer, in one of his short stories. Three shakes delivered to celebrate a small victory, a reminder that until further notice, we celebrate everything.

This weekend was fraught with frustration as we battled a huge plumbing issue during self-isolation that even the plumber couldn’t fix from the street. We were unable to wash clothes, use the dishwasher or two of our bathrooms or showers. Admittedly, not being able to use TWO of our bathrooms is a very “first world” problem to have. There are many others in the world who have none. Thankfully, my husband worked tirelessly from the inside, accessing several access points through out the house until he solved the issue hours (really DAYS) later. I admire and am grateful for his perseverance. I admire and am grateful for HIM.

Later that night, we violated our self-isolation by ordering three shakes from Shake Shake, delivered from DoorDash as a celebration of our victory, small victory that it was. I ordered the shakes and had the delivery person leave them on the porch. I opened the door after they left, using gloves. I wiped the outside of the styrofoam containers with disinfectant, as Covid-19 lasts about twenty-four hours on cardboard and approximately two to three days on plastic according to some sources. I transferred the shakes to our own decorative glasses inside the house, once the decontamination process ended. It has come to this, I thought to myself. But it was so worth the wait, as it was a “small good thing.”

TODAY, someone very special delivered surprise home-made muffins to our porch without notice. Another “small good thing” that caused our hearts to soar. A small good thing, an act of kindness, that helps us to rise above the themes of helplessness, loss, conflict, communication, isolation and loneliness that Raymond Carver develops in his story to lead the reader to discover our connection with others. The kindness of food and comfort given by another illustrates a shared understanding with others, letting us know we are all in this together.

You see, in our house, until further notice, we celebrate EVERYTHING. Sometimes it really IS the “little things” that make a difference.

“Together, together, together everyone
Together, together, come on lets have some fun
Together, we’re there for each other every time
Together, together come on let’s do this right….

Everyone is special in their own way
We make each other strong (we make each other strong)
We’re not the same
We’re different in a good way
Together’s where we belong…

We’re all in this together
Once we know
That we are
We’re all stars
And we see that
We’re all in this together
And it shows
When we stand
Hand in hand….”

-“We’re All In This Together” by Matthew Gerrard and Robbie Nevil

Find the small things to celebrate today. A smile, a gesture of kindness. Muffins left upon your porch by a special visitor. A shared connection with others. Carpe diem, friends….