An Outdoor Room of Her Own

An Outdoor Room of Her Own

Living alone is peaceful, but it can be underwhelming. There are things to miss. M, my stepdaughter, sweeping into the house after one of her shifts at the nursing home, her blond ponytail swishing, full of stories about the shenanigans the residents got up to that evening. My dog’s heavy head resting on my knee. Watching classic movies with J while drinking wine from the TCM wine club.

I never thought I’d miss the weed ridden, uneven yard. When I married J eight years ago, I hoped he enjoyed yard work more than I did. (Reader, he did not.) I had a terrible track record with houseplants, which I considered to be nature on the smallest scale possible, and a yard was entirely too much nature for me. I tended to flee inside and pretend I didn’t notice the mutant weeds.

My attitude was a bit strange given that I grew up with an amazing yard. My mother has always had annuals in her front yard, perennials in the backyard. Every time I visit my parents I am always surprised by the greenness of their yard. Both of my parents garden, and the backyard keeps their salad bowls full all summer. In the fall, two apple trees provide endless pies and applesauce. This always seemed like magic to me. Yes, I knew the “magic” was the hard work and patience of my parents and decades spent learning when to plant and how often to water.

It took boredom to get me into my own yard. I was thirty-nine and a broken toe disrupted my workout routine, leaving me with extra time on my hands. It began with a desire to pull some weeds. It was through weeding that I found my stubbornness that I had inherited from my ancestors, all Slavic peasant farmers. After weeding, I turned to planting flowers, and then mulching. By mid-summer, it was a full blown and rather expensive obsession. 

I looked a fright that summer. I smelled of mulch and wore only Birkenstocks as those were the only shoes that would fit my engorged toe. I could tell you exactly how many bags of mulch could fit in the hatchback of a Honda Fit (five in most cases, or six if you were extra stubborn). I talked to my mother of ideal growing conditions for hostas and my souvenir from a weekend trip to Ludington consisted of a large hydrangea that took up most of the hatchback and spewed soil on all of our suitcases. 

This would have been my fourth summer of gardening. I miss the roses and hydrangea that I planted. I long for colorful rows of snapdragons and to see the coneflowers planted last summer emerge from the ground. I miss my Saint Bernard racing the backyard in a fit of the zoomies. Instead, I have a concrete patio of my own to decorate.

My, that’s some lovely cement, said no one ever. I like how the crack near the front door gives it some character.

But it’s my cement, or at least it is for the duration of the lease. And there is something undeniably appealing about a weed free outdoor area and a blank slate. In two years time, I hope to have my own house and a green yard to make my own. But now this is my playground, my escape.

It’s a small space, but I have maximized it with seating for dining and seating for relaxing; plants for decoration and plants for food; lighting and accessories for whimsy; and some cat proofing extras so my feline roommate can enjoy the patio with me.

In the mornings and early evenings, Tim Gunn the Cat and I sit on our patio. I read, journal, or simply sit. Tim nibbles on catnip and listens to birdsong. And we are content.


Table and chairs: TÄRNÖ Table+2 chairs, outdoor, black acacia, gray-brown stained light brown stained steel – IKEA

Small black and white rug: Outdoor Rug Black Stripe – Threshold™ Designed With Studio Mcgee : Target

Outdoor pillows: Target Round Throw Pillow Natural – Opalhouse™ : Target

Bench cushion: Green Tropical Print Outdoor Settee Cushion | Kirklands

Boho swing and large multicolor rug: Aldi (Yes, the grocery store. And they were both total bargains.)

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