Save Me A Seat On The Patio

My favorite time of the year is when I can look at the weather app and see temperatures above 60 degrees every day of the week. After the long winter months, these first few days of sunshine and warmth feel like nature’s rebirth. All I want is to be outside, taking out a blanket for a picnic, laying around in the sun, and basking in the heat with my friends. Healing to the mind and body, soaking up the spring weather makes April and May my favorite months of the year.

During the pandemic, it seemed as though all my meals were moved outside. In order to be together, every meal had to be eaten in the fresh air. Picnics in the park a few blocks from my house, with PB&Js and sliced fruit. Take out from the nice restaurant downtown or a happy meal from McDonalds, eaten on lawn furniture in my backyard. The outdoor seating area at the cafe a short bike ride away, to meet friends I wasn’t allowed to be inside with. It was a completely new way of eating. 

As I look back on years lost to quarantine, these moments bring a smile to my face. Laying a towel out and picking at pretzels and hummus while the sun kept me warm, amongst the giggles of girlfriends I wasn’t able to hug anymore, have become some of the best memories I have of a life flipped upside down. 

As we worked our way through a change of lifestyle, I remember looking at the crowded roads of the North End in Boston, restaurants pouring out onto the streets, creating completely new seating sections in once used to be traffic filled intersections. The “pods” restaurants built to comply with social distancing, the extra seating they were making, and the creative ways they were adapting to Covid gave way to some of the most rich and fresh dining experiences I can remember. Instead of being confined to the four walls of a restaurant, our meals and the spaces were being reimagined. 

In a world where so much is confined to the indoors, taking your meals outside can have extremely positive effects. Harvard Health Publishing discusses how being outside increases Vitamin D intake, which can protect against depression, cancer, or heart attacks. They reference healing properties of natural light and discuss how our mood and demeanor improves the more time we spend in the fresh air. Dining outdoors may be one way to keep your health in check. 

But as covid restrictions lifted and winter weather made dining outdoors less and less appealing, restaurants began to return to their old ways. Patios became barren and picnics were moved back to dining room tables. Yasmin Tayag of The Atlantic writes, “Outdoor dining’s sheen of novelty has faded; what once evoked the grands boulevards of Paris has turned out to be a janky table next to a parked car.”

But I’m not sure I totally agree. Having just returned home for the summer, I’ve already taken advantage of my home town’s outdoor dining arrangements. With bustling tables, filled with people and pets alike, it’s safe to say that outdoor dining isn’t going anywhere.

Earlier this week, as I ate my dinner basking in the glow of the sunset, with my dog laying pleasantly underneath my chair; I realized that spring and summer may be my favorite times of the year for this reason alone. Breaking bread outside under the sun is healing. It feels restorative. And instead of taking me back to the dark times of a global pandemic, it reminds me what beauty can come from the bleakest of situations. It reminds me that humans are adaptable, that we can overcome, and in some ways, we can make life a little bit better, even when we are back in the light. 

Cover photo courtesy of thrillist


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