In the back of our crabgrass choked lot there is a small cement pad-nine foot by nine foot. Originally the home of a hot tub, it became an informal place to play music when the hot tub was moved closer to the house. Some friends of mine and I would get together semi- weekly when the weather would allow, and play until we couldn't see our notes(or our frets). Often in the fall, we would feed the cracked iron chiminea with whatever scrap I got from my basement art projects and dead fall from nearby trees.
This small pad was like a kitchen at a dinner party- everybody would gather on the pad. It was as if there was not room on the surrounding grass for standing or sitting. My friends would slip seamlessly from tune to tune while I would urgently try to find my notes and my place. Even my upright bass, the boat-sized instrument that it is, would find a home on that little pad.
Years went by and the group got smaller. Friends moved away. There were more pressing engagements than music in the back yard. The remaining players spent less time at the pad and more time in my painting studio. Temperature control and lack of mosquitoes won us over.
My friend Pete got a home on Armitage Road next to the bike path. The location is wonderful- an historic house with gardens all around at the end of a winding road, surrounded by the best of southeastern Ohio nature. The bike path is a rails- to- trails setup that is smooth and even for miles with a wonderful canopy of trees.
He suggested I bring my bass and we play at one of those small shelters they put along the bike path. I am not one to play for an audience, but he assured me that our audience only consisted of weary bike riders who may stop to draw from their water bottles. I found myself once again playing on a small pad, standing next to a picnic table. The roof overhead was a nice addition to a pad of concrete.
I started to dream up a plan for my backyard pad. It would definitely need a roof to keep out the light rain and snow. I would build something more intentional out of that little pad. Maybe I would include some seating that maximizes the space. The limiting factor would be money-I don't have any.
Within a month, my brother had donated a little red roof off of his grown children's playhouse, and his father in law gave me piles of scrap left over from a disassembled deck. I decided to add some old doors I had in the basement , and the project is underway! I can already imagine music and conversation in this old/new space.
Though it is well underway, it still looks transitional. It may always feel transitional, and that is OK. The odd shape and size asserted by the materials available makes it interesting and a bit awkward. My wife called it a bus stop(and follows the comment with “bus stop, wet day, she's there, I say”), and it is a bus stop. People coming and going, but it stays put for them.
The other day, I sought shelter from the rain under the little red roof, and I felt the energy of our little sessions- still there. This is going to be a great project!