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Friday, October 24, 2014

Sit with me a spell out on the back porch

Forty-one years ago, we bought our house in Woodmere because it had a back porch. The seller was very clever. She whisked us through the dreary front hallway, past the harvest gold kitchen and straight out to the porch, where she was sipping coffee and reading a book. Pink and white magnolia blossoms tapped against the screens. We fell hard and fast.

The porch is far too small, its thin pine walls peel and crack annually, and we never had it winterized, so our porch season is June to September. We have smashed our nails and fingers raising and lowering the old-fashioned screens and windows. The floor has been covered with tile and then carpet and then tile again. Storms have rattled the windows and rains have poured through the screens. Strange bugs often find their way through the seams of the wall panels. Still, it’s my favorite room in the house. And since June is upon us, porch season has officially commenced.

Summer mornings I drink my Café Bustelo and read the newspapers outside, looking at the garden, listening to the cicadas and relishing my think-time. Sitting out there gently moves me out of the house and into the day, quietly and slowly, the way I like to begin. One minute I’m in bed, then out on the porch and then in the world.

We have no TV on the porch or electric lights. Just a ceiling fan that pushes around the warm air. No one has ever brought a laptop out there, although daily newspapers and books are allowed. We may have to consider Kindles sometime soon. Cell phone use is discouraged. The porch is for conversing and reading, which are both on the endangered list of contemporary culture.

Recently, community developers, like those who created Seaside, Fla. (the real-life setting for the movie “The Truman Show”), started building new “old-fashioned” towns in an effort to recreate one of the most precious pieces of Americana — the small, hometown neighborhood. Like Seaside, the new housing communities have clean, narrow streets, a variety of home styles, built-in green space and — most important — ample porches.

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