Once upon a time, when people seemed to have more time, or rather, made time, they took a breather and would sit on the porch. Front porch, back porch, it made no difference to those sitting there watching the world go by. With a glass of sweet tea or freshly squeezed lemonade, there was nothing more relaxing than to simply sit quietly for a while and rest from all labor. It was a place where one could let their thoughts wander, or two could engage in the lost art of conversation. It was a social place if neighbors stopped by to catch up on the local news.
City folk seemed to prefer the front porch since neighborhoods with sidewalks encouraged walking and invariably someone they knew would stroll by. Talk from the sidewalk most always was followed by an invite to “come sit a spell.” People living in the country lived further apart where there were no blocks to walk around. And yet, others roaming the rural roads or foraging in the woods for wild edibles would come upon someone sitting on their porch and stop for a visit.
When building our cabin here in Love, we put both a front porch as well as a rear one that spans the whole back of the house. I didn’t want faux porches that had only a six-foot wide floor; mostly for aesthetics, but a good eight-foot width that could accommodate a multitude of rocking chairs, swings and gliders for our large family. I wanted a fully functional porch with plenty of room for sitting, standing, and kids playing on the floor. The front porch is smaller, sandwiched in between two twelve-foot ends that jut out on either side. It overlooks the mountains and catches the morning sun and the brilliant full moon after dark. It’s shady in the afternoons and in the summer months we switch from the sunny back porch to the front where we can see who’s coming up the road.
But the long back porch is where we drink our morning coffee and have a chat before heading to the barn to feed our horses. The view here is unobstructed by civilization. We positioned our garage and barn so the few up-the-road neighbors aren’t visible. The porch overlooks our back pasture and the headwaters of Campbell’s Creek, which originates from our spring. Deer come to drink the water and graze the field unconcerned while we watch them. The back porch is an island of peacefulness, with nature all around. I keep a journal of the different species of birds that come to the feeders, and right now we are attracting more than our share of woodpeckers; Red Bellied, Yellow Shafted Flickers, Pileated, and the tiny but persistent Downies wait patiently for me to bring breakfast every morning and will come to eat while I’m still standing there.
Bluebirds abound, flying from nest box to nest box, trying to discourage the iridescent tree swallows from taking over selected abodes in which to raise their young. We see bears, fox, possums, racoons, and coyotes. We had a large female coyote a few years back that came to hunt along the edge of the swamp each day. We named her “Tippy” for the black color on the tip of her tail. She got so used to our presence that she would actually sit and watch us for a time before she’d resume hunting. Her kits were in the woods waiting for her to bring them a tasty morsel, and we could tell she had a successful hunt by the way the kits would carry on when she’d provide them a meal.
From our back porch we watch hawks kettling in circles, riding the thermals higher and higher. In the evening, we’re back outside listening for the distinctive call of a woodcock who flies up high and then “twitters” his way back to earth in a spiral, trying to impress a nearby female.
The back porch is where we drag all the produce from the garden and commence shelling black-eyed peas, brown beans, and green peas. It’s where we shuck the corn and rest a little after picking buckets of blackberries for the freezer. When we’ve worked all day and it’s not yet time for supper, the porch is a welcome respite and Billy always responds to my, “Let’s sit in the rocking chairs and have a cold drink” in the affirmative.
On damp nights we sit in the dark and watch the fireflies blink and listen to the spring peeper frogs singing in the swamp. At the end of day, sunsets blaze across the twilight sky in scarlet, orange and pink colors. And there’s nothing like watching a sudden thunderstorm complete with arcs of zig-zag lightning coming across the hayfield until it finally forces you inside.
Years ago, one of my co-workers said the first sign of spring was when her dad told her to drag out the old metal glider from the outbuilding, give it a fresh coat of green paint, and put it on the porch. Swings at the end of the porch attract grandkids like moths to a flame and have to be told, “Don’t swing so high or it will flip over backwards and you’ll fall!” Two summers ago, we moved ours to a different location after I leaned on it to steady myself while hanging a hummingbird feeder and it DID flip! Opps! It’s not just the kids who need reminding!
Modern people are busy people. No time for visiting. No time to sit idle and let thoughts wander where they will. No time. No time. Years ago, I interviewed someone in Vesuvius who had a cross-stitch sampler on their wall. I took a picture of it because it spoke volumes of how busy we’ve become as a people. The sampler?
“Once upon a time
There was enough time”