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Postcard from the porch

October 17, 2007

I am reporting back from my front porch vacation, having had a lovely time. It was very quiet; I didn’t see another soul, and I don’t think anyone noticed me. I loved it there, and I will definitely return.

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Our front porch faces west, and the morning light is full, without shadows. The porch is covered and well shaded. It was wet from rain this morning, so I stood rather than sitting on the porch in the conventional American way.

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Porch sitting is a major pastime in some parts of the country, particularly in the South. When I lived in Houston, I noted it to be developed into a social institution. Most people owned porch furniture, but those who didn’t simply sat on their “stoop,” or porch step. The objective is to watch people go by and things fixed in space. For some reason some people connect to their environment this way. I never thought much of it.

I have neighbors who use their front porch a great deal, especially in summer. They use it the way some people use phone booths: to talk on the phone and change their clothes.

But I simply stood on my porch this morning and enjoyed the quiet, and thought how private a place it is, how attractive I find it, and that I have not seen a prettier front porch anywhere on our recent house-gazing expeditions, even on houses we dismissed as too unnervingly close to the million-dollar mark.

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The south side of what was originally our front lawn is a dense bamboo grove, bounded by cedars and rhododendrons. We started the grove from, I think, six one-gallon potted bamboonos, my term of endearment for baby bamboo. The bamboo has grown into a screen, obscuring the view of the house next door and of the house across the street that I used to see from my study. It takes on a golden cast from the street light at night, and when wet with rain or dew, it seems bedecked in crystal. If you search “snow on bamboo” in my blog search box, you can see a photo of last year’s snow on the bamboo. It was exquisite. A grape arbor further screens our windows from the street.

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I have lived as an Easterner, a Southerner, a Northerner, and a Westerner. I know that I am a Westerner at heart. Our front porch has elements of all the cardinal points; in other words, it is distinctly American.

Poet Richard Hugo wrote, “What thou lovest well, remains American.” Yes, in my case, it does.

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What did on do on my front porch in America vacation? I simply experienced myself on my front porch in America. I would have done the same thing anywhere in the world: finished my coffee, became too cold, and went inside.

  1. October 17, 2007 11:22 am

    A morning well spent. All of the pictures are beautiful.

  2. Heidi permalink
    October 17, 2007 11:35 am

    You didn’t change your clothes? Or call up any Baptists and ask if their refrigerator was working?

    I love your little carpeted animal. Ruben would say it reminds him of me. He always says that about things that lie still hugging the ground and looking abjectly helpless. The color of your porch is beautiful.

  3. October 17, 2007 11:38 am

    That’s our little hedgehog feet-wiping thingy. He’s adorable, I know.

    I’ll travel in better style next time. There just seemed so little point in donning anything packable.

  4. October 17, 2007 12:45 pm

    My gosh…

  5. Janet permalink
    October 18, 2007 9:56 am


    I grew up spending every summer evening on the front porch. The grown-ups got the furniture; the kids sat on the steps. People walk by; they stop to chat; you play with the neighborhood dogs. You discuss serious things, like when you think the cherries will be just ripe enough to pick, or whether it will rain enough to clear the humidity. You play Stone Teacher. You wait for the fireflies to come out, and then run in the house to get a jar and some grass to keep them in. Someone goes to the drug store for ice cream. It was nice.

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