Friday, May 30, 2008

My porch or yours???

By Lonnie Cruse

When I'm away from home and need a stress-free place to go, at least in my mind, I visit a porch solidly built in the twenties or thirties or maybe even the forties. A porch where people once sat and rocked and watched the occasional car passing by, stirring up the dust covering the road that runs just beyond the iron gate. A porch where bees buzz drowesly from bloom to bloom on the climbing rosebush carefully tied to a nearby post. A porch where birds flit back and forth from the ground to a nest crammed into the eaves, carefully building it even higher or stuffing fat worms into tiny beaks.

The woman seated there waves the cardboard fan, given her at the last funeral she attended, back and forth in front of her tired face, to ward off the summer's heat and flies. The man mops his brow with a red kerchief and comments on this year's crop. His overalls need washing after long hours in the nearby fields.

I'm seated in the swing, unseen but listening in. Unseen because the man and woman are long gone and the porch sits abandoned, still attached to the old house, also abandoned, having outlived the family and its usefullness. And I'm only here in my imagination.

One of these days I'll get out of my car and go sit on one of those porches for real, tresspassing if need be. I love looking at old houses, imagining the people who once lived there.

Nearly every house has some sort of porch, or stoop, if you will. Be it a small square of concrete, just large enough to stand on while unlocking the door. If the owner is lucky, there is an overhang or awning above to keep off the rain while you fumble for your keys. Then there are porches with awnings or covers that are large enough to sit under and enjoy the view, or feed the dog and stay dry during a rain shower, or to water the plants from. And who can deny the beauties of a screened-in porch, fending off the attacks of the various summer insects who live only to irritate?

If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm a porch person. In nearly forty-five years of marriage, the very best gift hubby has ever given me is a sun porch. When I'm at home, I practically live there. But let me back up. When we moved to our current home eleven years ago, he had two concrete porches poured, one for the front door, one for the back, each supported underneath by brick, with three steps leading up, but no cover to protect us from the elements. There are no trees nearby, so sitting on the porches meant sitting in the hot sun, or the brisk wind, or the rain, assuming I was that hardy. I love watching it rain, having grown up in the desert, but I'm not quite that hardy.

We were planning our fortieth anniversary celebration a few years ago and decided to use what we'd saved for a trip to buy lumber for a porch instead. And windows. And dry wall. And paint. And . . . you get the picture. Hubby built most of it all by himself in nearly a year. (Yes, I helped when I could, but I'm not much of a carpenter.) Now that lovely porch sports fourteen windows and a door and a futon to sit on and watch the rain or take a nap and a dining table to feed family and friends and watch the birds and squirrels eating with us. Or the occasional deer who meanders by. And there is his tomato plot just beyond the porch to keep an eye on. And mine. I'm ahead of him so far this season, but tomatoes are fickle, so who knows which of us will harvest first?

There is a point in here somewhere. Ah, yes, there it is. Back in the day--as a friend of mine says--before air conditioning and television took over our homes and our lives, people sat on porches and fanned and watched the world pass by. I wonder how much we all miss out on now, sitting inside where it's admittedly cooler, watching a fictional world pass by.

May I invite you to join me by going outside on your porch, whatever size it is, or perhaps out in the yard, and look at life out there? Listen to the birds or the insects or the rain? De-stress? I'll be drinking a cup of cinnamon tea. Probably be wearing my favorite robe. If you'd like to join me in a toast, I'm in the mid-west, so point your cup that'a way. We should probably have some cake too, don't you think?

I wish you a lovely summer of birds and trees and breezes and rain and memories with your family. And time on a porch. Mine or yours?


Sheila Connolly said...

Lovely, lovely. The Victorian house we left behind in Swarthmore had a porch that wrapped around three sides, and we did use it. But Swarthmore is a town of walkers, thanks to the terrific and universal sidewalks there, and we waved at or chatted with any number of passing neighbors, dog walkers, etc.

Our current Massachusetts Victorian house has a front porch, but the neighborhood is different. However, I have a screened back porch (all authentic, I swear) that probably started life as a place for the hired help to string up the laundry on a rainy day (the hooks are still there). But I love it--I can watch the birds and squirrels, and the passing cats (and even a skunk, once). My cats love it too--they chase the patches of sunshine around during the day.

Here's to a slower, simpler life!

Ilana said...

I love my current screen porch and everthing I can watch from it. Unfotrunatley, I'm moving in about a week to a house with no porch. It has a patio, and already I'm mentally making plans to screen it in. I grew up with a screen porch (and no air conditioning) and practially lived on in during the summer.

I hate being cooped up completely inside during the summer, but love a porch where the sun and bugs can't quite get me.

Time to move outside to mine now...

Anonymous said...

There's something about a porch, isn't there?

When we were designing our house, one of my cast-in-stone requirements was a large porch on the lake side. Out there now is a small table with two chairs, a larger table made by my grandfather that will seat four (this table often has a jigsaw puzzle on it), a rocking chair, and a small white, metal daybed I found at a yard sale.

I cover the daybed with a white and blue quilt and pile pillows all over. It's a wonderful place to read and nap on a rainy summer afternoon. Even into late fall I'll be there under a blanket, sneaking a hand out into the cold to turn a page.

Janet K.

Kathryn Lilley said...

I was reminded by your post to appreciate all the porches I've enjoyed during my life, and continue to. My dad's farmhouse in Vermont has a deep wrap-around porch, and my mom's little house in South Carolina-like all good southern homes built before the 60's--has a front porch with plenty of shade. I should start thinking of my deck in CA as a porch, really. You can see the ocean from it, and there's always a fresh, tangy breeze. But no matter which home I'm in, I always gravitate to the porch.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Oh my, all these porches sound wonderful. I'll have to come visit all of you! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

English isn't my primary language, however I could recognize it when using the google translator. Terrific publish, you can keep them coming! Thanks for your time!