Around early to mid-June, many household activities move to our covered front porch. How I Iove to sit here to welcome the new day, enlivened by a cup of coffee! My morning meditation often consists of simply sitting and observing, and listening to bird song, insect noises, wind rustling in the trees.
On my porch, I am surrounded by potted house plants that live here for the summer: plumeria taking its own sweet time to bloom, an avocado tree I have been growing for 10 years and which will never bloom or bear fruit, my lemongrass plant, various begonias and the ginger roots that have sprouted lush green leaves resembling bamboo. Last year, I bought a hanging basket of fuchsia and adored their rich magenta and royal purple blossoms – precious little silk pouches dangling in the breeze. This year, the immense leaves of elephant ear wave in the breeze reminding me of tropical sojourns.
From my porch vantage point, I can watch hummingbirds, bees, bumblebees, butterflies, and many unknown insects sipping flower nectar in the nearby garden. This year, I had a large stand of pink larkspur which self-seeded from a single plant last year. I love the splashes of soft pink next to the deep orange of calendula and magenta of purple poppy mallow. Then there is jewelweed with spotted orange blossoms and wild bergamot bursting into frilly lavender bloom. My tiger lilies which bloomed prolifically in past years look skimpy and only deliver two blooms – the chipmunks must have been eating their roots. Canna are unfurling their lush tropical leaves and produce intense scarlet red fireworks in late summer – a favorite snack stop for hummingbirds before they come to the feeder.
What else might you find on my porch?
- Muddy shoes under the bench and sweaty clothes hung over the railing to dry.
- Herbs spread out for drying.
- Garlic and onion bundles hanging from the rafters to cure before they get stored inside for the winter.
The porch is a transition place. Vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers from the garden are sorted and cleaned before they are brought into the house.
The porch is the place where we feed our semi-feral cats. Even after 10 years of accepting food and drink from us, they are still quite skittish about being touched. Whatever clothing or rags end up on the floor will quickly be claimed by the cats to sleep on. When I place onions or potatoes on an old blanket for drying, the cats will push the produce aside a bit so they can sleep on the edge of the blanket. Cats will hide out in shady, secret places between potted plants; only their snoring gives them away.
The porch also becomes a summer kitchen. Canning food is a laborious and hot affair which would unnecessarily increase the temperature inside the house. So I set up my camp stove on the porch table. Once it brings the water in a large canning kettle to a boil, I place canning jars with jams, chutneys, or tomato sauce inside for proper sealing. So far, I’ve canned sour cherry jam and dilly beans, soon to be followed by pickled cucumbers and stew tomatoes.
The porch serves as an outdoor restaurant for our morning coffee, sipping a strawberry milkshake for lunch, or home-made quiche for dinner. Food and drink taste better when enjoyed on the porch, especially if the ingredients come fresh from the garden.
The porch is a place to receive visitors, the perfect place to socialize during the time of Covid masks and social distancing.
There are other guests that drop by: a grasshopper, a praying mantis, colorful moths resting after a night of frolicking, bugs of every shade and form, hummingbirds, swallows, robins or house wrens inspecting the rafters for a place to build their nest. Once in a while, a black bear makes a ruckus looking for something tasty to eat. I have learned to bring the cat food inside at night; onions, potatoes, or green beans are usually safe and seem to be of no food interest to bears (or raccoons).
On my porch, the world is whole and thriving. Living things intermingle; everything has a place. Well, most everything. There might be a bit of cruelty when we have to remove a hornet’s nest or tear down a large, intricate spider web. Sometimes, pruning or discarding is required when insects infest a plant. Certain unwelcome intruders need to be chased away (bear, rattlesnake, racoon). At other times, delightful emergence and occurrences happen – a volunteer plant, a perfect rhapsody of bird song, insect sounds and wind chimes, an inspired piece of writing. There’s always beauty to delight the soul and calm the mind.
The porch is an eco-system that reminds me to maintain balance in my life – work, pleasure, health, exertion and rest, beauty, peacefulness, conversation that deepens and then slides into sublime stillness. Porch life provides lessons about effortlessness, ease, synchronicity and getting off the time track. And maybe that’s the true purpose of a porch….