“Life in the yard.” I used that phrase in a travel article I wrote after visiting Nevis in 1989 (pre-Four-Seasons-Nevis). Remembering one little phrase for 30 years reveals what it is about island living I find so appealing (after proximity to the ocean, that is).
When we are on North Caicos, we aren’t exactly doing everything “in the yard,” but we do spend much of our day outdoors. We read and I do mosaic on the porch. Our outdoor shower gets a lot of use, I hang clothes out to dry, and of course there’s grilling. I write at the picnic table on the patio, on the porch, or on one of Lovey’s tables by the beach. The French doors are open all day, so the boundary of in and out is flexible.
It’s the kind of flexibility I miss at our Richmond home. Cool and cold weather keeps us indoors most of the time, and when we decide to go outside anyway, there’s all that putting on of shoes and jackets. Even when the weather is warm enough to go outside without dressing for it, getting there is not as easy as just stepping out. Our apartment does not have a porch, so we must take an elevator to the rooftop pool, remembering to lock the door, make sure our drinks are not in glass and take the book, the reading glasses, the phone, etc. Outdoor life is possible, but much more complicated.
My love of outdoor living is longstanding. I remember, as a kid, spending most of summer vacation outside. I’d walk or bike to the playground to hang out with other kids, drag a blanket up to the edge of the yard to read under the maple trees, or get into creative mischief in the garage. (The doors were always open in those pre-homeowner-association days.) If it rained, I’d hang with the Blanchard boys on their roofed porch or fuss over my pet turtles at our roofed picnic table. Back then, when I was a hardier person, I even spent time outdoors in winter. Instead of going inside after sled riding, I’d lie on my sled and watch snowflakes in the driveway light.
Wanting to be outdoors or remember that there is such a thing as “outdoors,” I have long been an opponent of air conditioning. Yes, we’re the weirdos who have open windows all summer in steamy Richmond, Va. It has to be pretty darn hot for me to close the windows and turn on the air, and then I last for only a day or two before feeling cooped up. No wonder I dislike winter and extended winter (which some people call spring)!
And so one of the things we escape when we go to North Caicos is the not-so-great indoors. But we are a dying breed there, too. First television, then the Internet, then whole-house AC have driven people inside. (OK, mosquito nights and sandfly mornings have helped, but they’ve always been with us.) I no longer hear children running past the house or playing outside, and the number of people who go to sleep being lulled by the sound of the waves is greatly diminished.
Not me. Give me the sea sounds, the wind, the open doors and the break from television. Give me the outdoor life, island-style.