Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Art of the Porch

We are blessed to live in a place with three comfortable seasons and very few nuisance insects, in part due to the low humidity. Our garden, which incorporates integrated pest management practices also helps on the bad-bug reduction. We are in a part of the country where porches never really went out of style. I remember my mother referring to the 'sleeping porch' in her childhood home. On hot evenings, they would break out the cots and enjoy the cool night air while the adobe walls gave back the day's heat. By 3 am the house would have cooled down, but they were fast asleep on the porch by then.

Our porch is about 10 feet wide and 30 feet long. It provides three seasons of entertaining and resting space. It offers a small 'summer kitchen' for making preserves without heating up the entire, unairconditioned house. We have no dining room inside, so winter meals are on a collapsable table if it is too cold to use the porch.

The porch is a window on our world. We see when the crowd at the cafe has let up, so we can grab a salad or talk to the neighbors. We can see my sister's house and whether the lights are on, signifying that she made it back from town. We can break bread with neighbors or rest in its shade between chores. Most of the houses in our town have porches, and we tend to sit a spell on each a few time each year.

I have come to believe that porches are the ultimate sign of a civil community. They tell people that you are part of the community, that you value the concept of community as more than a geographic space on a map, but as the communion of neighbors with common purpose. They invite the borrowing of a cup of sugar or a conversation about how little Jimmy is doing in school. They may not be the glue that holds a community together, but they sure provide the opportunity to start making the glue. Or at least that's my opinion.

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