The Summer I Slept Outside

“That sounds so cool, but I could never…”

Am I really as daring as people think I am? Sometimes yes, but in the scheme of things, not really. It’s like my decision to sleep outside for the summer. I got the idea from my sister-in-law who has been sleeping on her screened-in porch for a few years now. Everyone seems to think it is novel and brave.

But it’s really not a new idea. Here, in the U.S., it was quite common in the past when people had big families and smaller houses. Having a bed or a few cots on a screened porch meant everyone could have a little more air space on a hot summer night.

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And so I decided this would be my summer to try it.

I ordered the twin mattress from IKEA. When it arrived I took measurements and designed a simple platform bed. I had Cecil at Lowes cut the pine boards to length and I put it together with wood screws in my garage. It took me two hours to make and cost $136 in total. I carried it to the back porch on a hot afternoon and set it up along the inside wall where it wouldn’t be exposed to any rain.

Just an FYI: The screened porch was an addition to the house about ten years ago and I did a lot of the work on it myself including installing the brick floor. Now I keep a writing desk there and two cane chairs for reading and drinking coffee. All of my plants live there in summer and sometimes that makes it feel like a jungle. Jellie Mae isn’t the first cat to love rolling around on the rough floor and curling up in the chairs to sleep.

Initially, sleeping outside took a little getting used to…especailly for Bread and Jellie. They were on high alert, ears pricked at every sound. The middle of the night became the best time for kitten shenanigans.

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Only once was it too hot to fall asleep – even with the overhead fan running full speed. Mostly, the air was fresh and the night sounds of cicadas, crickets and the trees moving in the wind were like a natural sound machine. I slept through rainstorms I thought would scare me inside, but didn’t.

But some nights were not as easy as others. Sleeping outside, you’re not protected by walls or insulation. The sounds of the night are different up close. The late hooting of an owl living nearby, raccoons out and about getting into anything that interests them, the occasional domestic tiff that drifts from another house, neighbors parties that run a little too late, a stray cat passing at dawn.

But come the first hint of sun, my eyes flutter and I stare out at the pink and blue sky unfolding slowly. Bats flit through the space between trees dipping here and there, going after the last bit of food they’ll get until night returns. My mornings on the porch start slow because it’s easy to want to linger there looking out on the world that holds me.

It’s mostly kind despite our size difference.

 

Image by Melmak from Pixabay

 

 

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