Thursday, February 18, 2010

Living In Your Outdoors

You own it, so you should use it. You should have a variety of living spaces in your back and even front yards and you should spend as much time as possible out there living in it.A first step is to spend a few weeks paying attention to how you spend your time. What do you do when you come home from work? How much time to do you spend at the kitchen table dining with your family? What do you and various family members to after dinner? How do you spend your at-home time on the weekends?This will give you a list of things that you might want to do outdoors. Once you have this list of outdoor functions, sort the list into things that require similar furniture.
Reading a book might require a bench, but conversing with friends might require an L-shape of two benches. Playing chess or checkers would require a 'coffee table' between them. Now you have small, relatively private living space that can serve multiple needs. Dining requires a large table and chairs, but it is also a space that you can do crafts on or where several people can play games. If several of you work on computers in the evening, can you provide wireless Internet or cable access and electric access so that you can gather outdoors at the dining table?
If you have read about landscape design, you might have read a directive to put the dining area no more than a few feet from the back kitchen door. But what tends to happen in this arrangement? We dart out to grill our dinner, we eat it on the adjacent dining table, then we duck back indoors for the rest of the evening. We only see the plants that we can see from our deck or patio. What if that living space designated for dining is in a far back corner? We will spend more time packing up the food and dishes and condiments to get it out there, but we will probably develop a caddy of some sort for that which we keep stocked and handy. And once we are out there, we will have 'moved' out there and so we will linger. We might run back in for a magazine, or we might bring the laptop computer with us when we bring out the dining kit. We might get up and stroll through the plantings and return to converse with family for a while. We might linger so long that we decide to install some pathway lighting. We might linger so long that we decide to build some screened walls around the space to protect us from the mosquitoes at dusk and add a ceiling so that we can linger even in the rain.
There are two key ingredients to living more of your life outdoors. One is thoughtfully planning out the spaces where you can do the things you like to do in an outdoors setting. The second is getting into the habit of getting out there and staying out there. It takes a bit of planning and some effort to make these things happen, but once you begin to spend more of your time outdoors, you begin to appreciate the subtlety of nature more fully. Instead of seeing the flower when it is in full glorious bloom, you will notice the buds and look forward in anticipation of the day they open. You will notice the flowers turning into seed heads or seed pods. You will notice the seed pod opining to release the seeds.
The more time you spend outdoors, the more you then spend quiet time out there, and that leads to the wildlife becoming used to you as a part on their habitat. You will see hummingbirds and bees coming to the flowers for their nectar and notice the different flight patterns of the many kinds of native bees. You will see spiders forming their webs if you stay long enough. Birds get used to you and come in close to get the plant seeds or grab a bit of dried leaf from the ground to line a nest. If you are quiet enough and lucky, you may see raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, opossums, and other animals make their rounds in your yard.
You will come to experience your own piece of nature as a part of it and not just a distant observer, as you watch the day pass into dark and the plants change through the seasons and you will enjoy new dimensions of nature in your very own back yard.
And in winter, your garden spaces will serve as hopeful reminders that spring and green will return, and you will be able to return to living outdoors.  So make sure you can see one of them from a window to keep you thinking outdoors all year long.

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