May long weekend both seems to have come early this year and also taken forever to arrive.

Having extended my stay-at-home vacation from that work-from-home drudgery, I afforded myself an extra day to tackle the summer-is-looming projects that will help to shape the garden into a backyard oasis for the season. As we will not be going very far for the next few months, this seems more important than ever.

By far the most notable project of the weekend has been the minor maintenance and addition to our deck. As we’re rarely in a rush to go anywhere these days, I’ve been filling my mornings as the temperature improves enjoying the twelve-foot-square patch of wood stage that protrudes from the rear of our house. A morning coffee. A bit of writing. Spinning through the news or twitter feed.

It’s a northern exposed space and in the mornings it’s nearly perfect for a bit of casual enjoyment. But as the day pressed on, the sun peaking over the house mixed with the exposed unfinished ambiance left it wanting for any more practical use.

It’s Saturday mid-afternoon as I write this, and I’m sitting out on that exact same deck, but under the protective modifications that we installed yesterday.

See, as I was taking my daily walks around the park it occurred to me to pay closer attention to the decks and gardens of the many houses that back onto the green space. Roughly two-thirds of those properties had improved their decks with addition of a fixed shelter of some kind. Semi-rooves, awnings, or pergolas were numerous, and sitting in the deck below were comfortable looking people enjoying comforting looking spaces.

Research ensued. A whole adventure attempting to purchase a rare and expensive pergola kit during a pandemic retail lockdown occurred. Long story short, yesterday morning we found ourselves with the final missing pieces of a TOJAGrid modular pergola system.

We spent four hours staining the deck and timbers.

We readied the pieces.

We nearly killed ourselves trying to lift the ten-by-ten frame eight feet into the air (until the neighbour generously rushed over and assisted, social distancing-style).

I bolted it in place this morning and hung a couple strings of soft white lights around the upper perimeter and hung the sail shade.

It is a remarkable effect, actually. It’s hard to understand —let alone explain— why eight posts and a square of canvas completely transform a space from a platform in the backyard to a comfortable retreat. We were sitting under the new roof to our deck this morning, sipping hot drinks and noting how different it feels. A frame. A box with no walls and a flap of fabric above our heads and this familiar part of our yard where we didn’t-actually-use-much-to-be-honest was in a day morphed into an alluring outdoor shelter-of-sorts. I can see myself working out here as often as as the weather allows. I’ve spent the better part of today unable to pry myself from both the coziness and the novelty of it. Simultaneously inexplicable and completely understandable in the context of simple human psychology. It has created the illusion of a room and the illusion of a space and the illusion of a protective bubble.

Now I just need to pry myself away and plant some vegetables.

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