Of all the jobs I’ve had, my favorite remains my first – lifeguarding. Forget bigger paychecks, mental challenges, or even the luxury of spending every day in a bookstore. Never mind the occasional sunburn, the hassle of sunscreen, or the wrinkles from all the years I didn’t know I needed it. Just give me that tall chair in the sun.
When I left the gray skies of midwest winters and moved to Mexico, I knew I’d landed in my own little Eden. An optimism reinforced by our house. Although not the colonial patio house that I’d hoped for, it’s a modern interpretation of one, with a walled patio at the rear. Treeless and open to blue skies, it promised a daily dose of sun.
I rushed out and bought garden plants to make it even more Eden-like, avoiding any that thrived in the shade and snatching up the ones that needed multiple hours of sunshine.
Life was looking good.
Until the next morning when I took my coffee, my beach chair, and my book outside and set up shop in a square of sun that took up a full third of the patio. The only thing missing was my coppertone suntan lotion, which I had reluctantly traded in some years back for a generic SPF 30.
It wasn’t long before I noticed that the light on my book had dimmed and my square of sun had turned into a rectangle, covering no more than a fourth of the patio and two thirds of me. I picked everything up, moved three feet north, and settled back in.
And stayed for about ten minutes – the amount of time it took for that rectangle to thin out even more, necessitating turning my chair sideways and extending my legs down its length.
“This is okay,” I said to myself. “I had to reposition that umbrella that kept blocking the sun when I lifeguarded too.”
But no sooner did I get comfortable than that thin rectangle morphed into an obtuse triangle where I could have either my legs or my torso in the sun, but not both. Unless I contorted myself into a lotus position. Which I did.
For about 12 uncomfortable minutes. At which point even my triangle was gone. If I wanted sun, I was going to have to forget the chair and stand flat against the back wall. Which I might have done if I could have gotten up from that lotus position. And if it wasn’t clear that, when I did finally get up, I was going to have to move all those sun-loving plants against that wall.
Somehow, I had had the good foresight to move away from midwestern winters, yet never foresaw that a four walled patio in a complex of connected houses might not get a full morning of sun. Or that the enclosed patios of patio houses might actually have been designed to provide relief from the sun.
Because there I was, changing positions as often as you take cookies out of the oven.
My daughter’s thrilled. She loves the shade of our patio and is even thinking of buying some sun shade canopies, which we clearly don’t need.
As for me, I now have various chairs set in strategic spots where I spend part of most mornings. The rest of the time you’re likely to find me heading to the market, looking for shade plants. Walking home on the sunny side of the street.
Jeanne is a transplanted Illinoisian who arrived in Guadalajara hoping for siestas. She was sad to discover that siestas are a thing of the past, but is still finding lots to love about Mexico.