G is for Gazebos

G is for Gazebos

Gazebo kits should come with a warning! Well, at least the el-cheapo brands which come with instructions in 14 languages, none of which are recognizable English, and which also have exactly zero screw holes which match up, and a non-stretch fabric top, which is not quite large enough to fit over the frame! But fear not! A quick trip to the hardware store for a roll of duct tape (just like “the force” in Star Wars – it has a dark side and a light side, and it holds the universe together!) and a package of various-sized cable-tie zip straps, and your dream Gazebo will cling together forever, even through major wind storms when your neighbour’s expensive brand takes wing and sails away. And although it may not look quite as elegant as you pictured, it will certainly be one-of-a-kind! Ah, the joy of attaining yet another dream!

Yes, I had dreamed of having my very own, very chic, cozy, private little retreat ever since we moved into our present home, which is half a duplex tucked snuggly between the long, mostly windowless walls of two neighboring houses, which are both much taller than our house. The other half of the duplex faces forward onto a pleasant treed street, while our half faces backward onto the gravel spare parking area of a garage. Fortunately, a surprisingly pleasant little shed blocks the view of passersby who might peer into our little side yard, and an 8 foot fence separates us from the side yard of the folks up front. French doors from our dining room lead out onto a small, stone-paved 8 by 10 patio. Living in a pleasantly warm, dry climate, which results in overheated second-floor bedrooms in summer, I started spending those hot summer nights on a cot on said patio. This was just fine except for thunder storms which whip up suddenly and unexpectedly here on late summer evenings, bringing not only spectacular lightning displays, but also soaking downpours which make sleeping under the stars a sadly soggy experience. And then there was the night I awoke to find a street person unscrewing the gas tank from our propane barbeque which was about 6 feet away from me! I quickly decided I needed a shelter that would offer the pleasantries of summer nights outdoors with a bit more protection from both the elements and unexpected guests!

Since spare cash was not something I had in abundance, I rashly invested in the 8 foot square, $89 gazebo model at the local discount store! And although I faced some design challenges, it wasn’t long before it was securely in place, duct tape, zip straps, and all. Handsomely furnished with a cast-off bed frame, a yard sale $2 foam mattress, and a free-to-me desk, I cheerily tucked in for a good night’s sleep. Inevitably, an evening storm blew up, and the wind-blown downpour soaked my pleasant little retreat as thoroughly as if I had no roof overhead. And the early morning sun which followed a few hours later soon poured in and turned my wet sleeping bag into a sauna of evaporating rainwater! Having no more cash, I dug around in the shed and found a couple big old plastic tarps in brilliant blue and gorgeous green. More duct tape and zip ties, along with some kite string and a few clothes pins also retrieved from the shed soon attached three lovely blue and green walls to my abode, with a fourth side open to the cool night breezes and the sight of stars sparkling overhead. And although it was not exactly “the look” I’d had in mind, it kept me dry, comfortably cool on warm summer nights, and out of the view of any passing night critters!

Summer passed into fall, and nights grew too chilly to enjoy my retreat. Gradually odds and ends like broken chairs, a non-functioning television, the barbeque, and the now-folded-up-for-winter lawn chairs took over my retreat. One night a huge wind-storm blew up, and though the flapping of the lovely tarp walls could be heard all over the neighbourhood, next morning it was my duct-tape decorated gazebo which survived intact the 100-plus-kilometer gusts, while the classy, expensive gazebos my neighbours had proudly invested in were battered and scattered. Now, as I write, it is winter, Christmas-time, and my charming retreat, swathed in lovely, gossamer-white blankets of snow, still sits cozy and private, and as long as it stays shrouded in its lovely winter blanket, is also quite chic, though far too chilly to inhabit!

Yet I have to admit I still dream about a retreat that is just a tad more chic. And in a slightly more charming location. A few years back, the house we were living in suffered an electrical fire, and we had to spend a couple weeks in a cabin on a long, lonely beach on the beautiful islands of Haida Gwaii. This unexpected but serendipitous event occurred at the beginning of January, and the world was cold and snowy. The cabin sat on the edge of a wide sandy beach looking out over the ocean, with beautiful mossy rain-forested dunes behind. The bedrooms were tiny spaces lined with built-in bunks, and the living areas were inviting and comfortable, with the coziness of a well-designed sailboat cabin. The days were short and the nights long. The moon shone on the nighttime snow creating countless tiny sparkling starlight points, and gently illuminated the ridges and foaming edge of the waves as they splashed onto the beach. It was a sight of great beauty as we sat in our cozy cabin in the evenings, wrapped up in wooly blankets, by turns gazing out across the water, and then reading by lamplight stories of mystery and adventure from books found in the cabin’s cupboards. In the short gray winter days, we would bundle up against the winter wind, and venture out along the beach, clambering over the wildly stacked, water-smoothed driftwood logs, and so down to the sandy stretch above the tide line, where we’d wander along, stooping from time to time to pick up shells, and interestingly shaped bits of drift wood, and beautiful agates, and other bits of jetsam tossed up by the winter storms. Often, I would stop and gaze out across the water, gray and wind-tossed, which stretched off into the distance to where the equally gray, cloud-streaked winter sky bent gently down to meet the water, and the two ran off together into endless mistiness. And I could not help but dream of sailing away to far-off lands, where mystery and adventure must surely await.

Sadly, our cozy, quiet little dream world retreat could not last forever. We located another house to rent, and returned to town, and to work, and the children to their studies, and real life has carried on. Time has passed, and we have moved away from our islands, and live far inland. The children have grown, and finished school, and are moving away to start their own homes and families. But always, I remember those dreamy days in our beautiful little retreat. As I gazed out at my snow-shrouded gazebo this Christmas season, my mind once again drifted back to that little cabin, and my dream of returning to that spot or perhaps somewhere else far-away, mysterious and adventurous, far across the ocean waves, stirred once again in my imagination. Perhaps someday I shall be able to go there. And meantime, there are still summer nights to look forward to, in my beautiful little gazebos, duct-tape and zip ties and tarps and all!

Date: December 26, 2006

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