When I was a child, I spent a lot of time outside. My mom has pictures of me, summer after summer, with bronzed skin and a big smile. I swam, I rode my bike, I tormented ants, I played with the animals — I was an outside kind of girl.
Around ten or so, I realized that inside was a bit nicer. I discovered that I loved to listen to the adults talk. Books — which I already adored — became even more important in my life. I still swam and rode my bike, but my other outside activities were curtailed.
By the time I started college in 1988, I was an indoors girl. My skin had long-since faded back to its natural pale-ivory shade. Whenever I spent any time in the sun at all, I would burn to an unflattering hot pink. As soon as I learned the dangers of sun exposure, I was done — no skin cancer for me, thank you.
This was something of a problem, since I am from what one might call an outdoorsy family. They love to camp, hunt, farm, and generally spend large amounts of time outside. In order to spend time with them, I had to, at least occasionally, be outside.
I adapted as best I could, spending most “camping” vacations under awnings or inside trailers, usually with a book in my hand. Once I was on my own, I began to take the kind of vacations I dreamed of: ones that prominently featured nice hotels and exciting locations.
Unfortunately, my first husband was an outdoorsman. He had a Land Cruiser that he had outfitted to be a rock-crawler (a vehicle specifically designed to go ridiculously slow — an old woman pushing her own wheelchair moves faster). He liked to hunt and camp, too. I tried to adapt — really I did. But no matter how much I wanted to be a good wife for him, I was incapable of it. He and I were destined to part.
When we did split, one of my friends (we’ll call her Emma) warned me I’d never find a man who would be a good match for me. I remember telling her that I would rather be alone for the rest of my life than spend one more day with my ex. Having nothing in common with the man you have married is the worst feeling imaginable, because you think that he is just as miserable as you are. As it turned out, he was less miserable, though I still don’t know why.
In any case, Emma had good reason to worry I’d never find another mate. After all, I am an Arizonan who is a fan of Shakespeare, classical music, and literary fiction. If there is a rarer combination of locale and preferences, I have never found it. And yet, just three years later, I found Dan — a man with a subscription to the local Shakespearean theater company, a love of all music including classical, and a passion for reading just about anything he could get his hands on. His only flaw? He liked to be outside. In fact, just a month before we started dating, he erected a patio shade out of redwood in his backyard.
Once again, I tried to embrace the idea of spending time — at least in the winter — out of doors. With Emma’s help, I moved the rosebushes that originally lined the driveway to the backyard, believing that if the yard were prettier, I would be more likely to spend time out there. I even talked Dan into investing in a fountain. Alas, even running water couldn’t lure me outside.
Dan’s habits slowly changed. He stopped smoking cigars for the most part, so he no longer went outside every evening. Before long, our yards, both front and back, took on a neglected appearance as we spent our time improving the interior of our small home. Though Dan still works on the backyard from time to time, I’m afraid I don’t venture out there very often. The rosebushes have managed to survive severe neglect; the fountain has been dismantled and is in the process of being moved to my parents’ home.
After many vacations in fine hotels and on cruise ships, we have come to the determination that we like comfortable interiors with balconies. In other words, we are condo people. Someday, we will move to a condo and leave this home and its large yard to younger, more outdoorsy types. I can hardly wait.
Our idea of perfection: a bedroom with a view.