After a couple of false starts, I found the perfect spot for my patio swing: a grassy area in the shade of an old elm tree at the back of the property, out of sight from the road and with a big prairie view.
Now if I could just find the “go-sit-on-the-swing” switch.
Every day for the past month since I dug the swing out of winter storage in the barn, scrubbed it clean and set it up, I have hauled the cushions in at night to protect them from roving wild cats and rogue rainstorms, then tied them back into place in the morning, ready for imaginary after-lunch siestas, twilight book reading or late-night stargazing.
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In my adult life, I can’t count the number of outdoor chaises, gravity-defying recliners, porch swings, papasan chairs, wicker rockers and patio swings I have owned. I never use them, and I never learn. Each new piece of lounge furniture I spy in stores or catalogs sparks an intense desire that I never feel for more functional pieces like desks or bookcases.
It’s not the look — it’s the tantalizing promise of downtime, something I am just not wired for. “As soon as” is my designated hour for stretching out on the fat, vintage-banana-leaf-print cushions on the patio swing with that novel I’ve been dying to read and a glass of minty lemonade.
Every day, despite all evidence to the contrary, I picture what it will feel like, this lazy swaying in the constant prairie breeze for an hour or two. As soon as.
As soon as the dishes are done, the jelly is made, the missed phone calls returned. As soon as I’ve taken a shower, double-checked my appointments for the next day, sorted piles of newspapers to save or recycle.
“As soon as” never comes.
Not even on vacation. I’m a sucker for any resort that shows pictures of hammocks strung between palm trees on its website, but when I get there, I never lie in them.
“As soon as” follows me wherever I go. At the beach, I fill my days with short walks in the surf that turn into compulsive marathon seashell-hunting expeditions; quick runs to the marina for fresh fish are stretched out with side trips to an organic market for lemons, a roadside shack that has the good smoked fish dip, Walgreens for another bottle of sunscreen and — oops! — it’s 2 p.m. and lunch still isn’t ready.
It’s not all bad. I pack a lot of living into every day, every hour. Even as a kid, my what-I-did-on-summer-vacation essays were Proustian by grammar school standards.
My body is a human perpetual motion machine, except when I tumble into bed, after one more day of accomplishing only 12 things of 35 or so on my mental to-do list.
I don’t mind: Different strokes for different folks, right? Some of us are wired for sittin’ on the dock of the bay watching the tide roll away, and some of us are born to run.
I aspire to retire, recline, relax. I can picture myself in a state of total empty-mindedness and physical stillness. It just never happens.
Who knows, maybe visualizing relaxation is good enough for now. And the day I can finally put my feet up and leave them up, I’m going to have a lot of stored experiences to screen on the insides of my eyelids as I sway in the breeze.