Porch Sitting

I don’t consider myself a lazy person, at least not most of the time. But I really do love to sit on our porch watching the birds, enjoying pine trees against the sky, reveling in the rich watermelon color of our young crepe myrtle and listening to the cicadas putting on their dynamic concert in the pines and magnolias.

Actually, there’s more to porch sitting than immediately meets the eye. In fact, ladies and gentlemen, the art of porch sitting has many facets.

It is very likely true that porch sitters, or variously those occupying porticos, patios, canopied walkways or even front walls of courthouses, have had a very great deal to do with electing presidents, solving peculiar mysteries, erecting high rises, and identifying rare species of birds. We’re being positive here so we’re not going to mention the characters that may have been defamed unjustly or achievements marred by disgruntled tongue wagglers. We’re talking about peaceful porch sitters.

Consider the porch. It is a place set apart from the rest of the house, at least to some degree. It is outdoors, but at least partially protected from the elements. It is a place where one can talk to a solicitor or other stranger without inviting them in. It can be a private place for a cup of coffee and a talk with the Lord. Or it can be the scene for an informal party decorated with hanging ferns, or for a gathering of friends and neighbors any time, any day. It’s a good place to serve lunch on a workday when men appear with sawdust on their britches and children cluster up with a great aptness for spills and crumbs. In other words, it is a gathering place, an informal one, not at all stiff as a parlor might be, but comfortable with a swing and rockers and lots of fresh air.

Speaking of porch sitters–there are very active ones. They can be snapping beans, peeling peaches, knitting a scarf or, even, telling stories. I once came upon a lady busy at her quilter’s frame on her small porch. The other day when my sister Suzanne and her husband Bill came from North Georgia they brought me a basket of green beans straight from their big bountiful garden. We sat on the porch and exchanged tales as we strung (should that be un-strung?) those wonderful beans. Their eight-year-old grandson Matthew happily tried out our sports rider, an exercise device that we find helpful, even challenging. For him it was way too mild, though, so he gave it up soon and tried out the swing, giving it some good exercise before he took off to try out any bike or wheeled object he could find. We could watch him while we filled our pot with beans for supper.

There are also the not-so-active porch sitters who are actually not idle at all. From a distance, two people rocking can appear to be simply taking in the evening when, in fact, they’re having a very deep discussion. An author may be sitting alone on the porch looking as idle as a tractor in a shed when, really, she/he’s planning a deep plot or searching for the very best simile. And there are the readers and the puzzle workers and the scientists with binoculars to their faces. And the knitters and cross-stitchers and knife-sharpeners and, in the case of some of our grandchildren, young artists busy sketching.

A little porch sitting usually leads to ideas for a lot more work to be done! Charles and I sit down under our porch fan for a nice evening chat after supper. Soon we find ourselves imagining new landscaping endeavors, or we notice a bird feeder is empty, or Charles suddenly remembers something he wanted to see about in his shed.

A porch can even be a good place for a snake show. Yes, that’s right, a snake show. I am mortally afraid of snakes but it’s amazing what love propels us to do! The first time my grandson, Charles Douglas, brought a small corn snake to see me he brought it in the den wrapped around his wrist. I threatened him with his life if he let that thing get lost in the couch. He and his friend Hannah were passing it back and forth between them! But then only a few weeks later I asked them to bring snakes for young Matthew and other young cousins to see. I stipulated they couldn’t be in the house. Charles D insisted the “visitors” would have to sit up on a shelf in the dining room while we all ate. But not to worry, he said, because they would be in their fabric carriers. He failed to tell me the carriers have windows through which the snakes can stare at you! But I lived through that–then we moved to the porch and I closed the door firmly.

Charles D and Hannah put on a very educational and entertaining show for everyone with their snakes center stage on our porch! There was a Brazilian (some other name I’ve forgotten!), and a couple of boas, one of which is about five feet long and wrapped itself lovingly (!!!!) around Hannah and eventually around almost everyone there. But not me! I did touch one and took two pictures of them which, for me, was pretty good. The only tears shed were from little two-year-old Kaison who was so upset because he was too small to hold the snakes. The next time he came over he looked around hopefully saying “Snake, snake!” as if perhaps one might have stayed behind.

I like to see people enjoying their porches. It shows they’re taking time to breathe deeply, to notice birds feeding, to absorb a sunset, and to dream a little. When the air turns frosty and folks start leaning their porch chairs against the wall or storing them somewhere, I feel somewhat sad. Another year of porch sitting all over and done. But, for me, I sit on the porch even in the winter. I may be huddled in a big coat or have a blanket around my shoulders, but there’s nothing more inviting on a Saturday morning than a cup of coffee on the porch swing!

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