As 2021 becomes more of a rearview episode of my life and I feel less sting from the chaos it wrought, an interesting image has planted itself in my mind: a tent.

Not the Girl Scout variety or the Army surplus tent that remains in our garage attic, the one my husband and I used on an annual trip with friends into mid-Michigan – until our backs complained about sleeping in a bag on the ground. Not a Cirque or Circus Vargas tent – not even the tent cities stocked with homeless people in our cities or refugees throughout the world.

The tents that enterprising restaurants put up in their former parking lot or space eked from the sidewalk.

I’ve eaten enchiladas in a party tent. Fish and chips, too. I celebrated Oktoberfest in a vast tent behind a nearby German club. I’ve even heard of a tent deployed for actual parties in people’s yards… those in pricey neighborhoods who have enough of a yard, that is. Some people received vaccines in tents… or COVID treatment when hospital wards were full.

The tent has been with humankind for thousands of years. The Israelites trekked enmasse for forty years in a desert, encamping their entire tribes in tents. Tents shield you from sun, rain, wind, and dangerous critters. They form a visible boundary for those who are in/out.

Tents are a flexible, temporary habitat, a rain-or-shine outdoor space for dining al fresco.

While the never-ending variants of COVID which swirl make the future remain wildly unpredictable, some restaurants cling to their permanent expansions on wide city sidewalks…

I can’t/won’t complain. I’m in inveterate lookee-loo – even an eavesdropper – at times. Let this be a warning – don’t engage in a loud argument or a bad break-up near my table. You may become a bit player in my next story!

(btw, the term ‘Constant Reader’ has been purloined from Stephen King.)