Out on the Front Porch

Sitting out on our screened-in front porch in Morrisville we used to watch the two older women across the street emerge from their home, come down the steps of their porch and walk over to Cumberland Farms for some provisions and walk back. We wondered who they were, and what is their story?

A bird flew up and sat right on the railing the other night while we were sitting on our porch, as if to say: What’s for supper?

We watch the antics of squirrels and greet the neighborhood dogs out walking their owners – a welcome respite from so much else that is going on in the world. Recently we have taken to scoring how people are doing parallel parking across the street. We have contemplated getting scoring cards, like the judges at the Olympics have. We could hold them up as  drivers emerged from their car. We could have several categories: Did they park so as to leave optimum room for others in need of a space? How close were they to the curb? How many times did they go back and forth before they were done?

I love front porches. Only two of the eight homes I have lived in have had them; and we have one now. A friend gave me a book about porches. We were leaving Morrisville, and he used to sit out on our porch with us. It was a going-away gift, a picture and history book called “Out on the Front Porch”. It tells of the day when the porch was essentially an extra room in the house. People would conduct business with salesfolks peddling everything from vacuum cleaners to encyclopedias to things you absolutely had to have in your kitchen. It was a place that sat at the edge of private and public. If you got onto the front porch, you weren’t inside; but you were close.

The front porch – it’s where a refreshing breeze blows in the evening and you can watch life go by. It’s the middle ground between being a spectator and a full participant. When I’m on our porch, I am engaged in life, but in low gear. It’s a marvelous place to pray, to read, to give thanks. My wife is not a person who enjoys outdoors. She would never go camping; but she will sit with me on the porch and delight in the scurrying about of the critters. (“They are fine, as long as they remember they live out here, and we live in there.“) In fact, when our granddaughter visits from Connecticut, she and my wife head for the front porch first thing in the morning. They get peanut butter and raisins and sit outside, sometimes wrapped in blankets, delighting in the magic of that “inside/outside” space. They count squirrels.

The students across the street are often on their porch, playing their guitar and even singing. Next door to them, young people often gather on the large porch of their apartment building and we can hear their laughter.

In the heat of this political season, the front porch reminds me of all the people doing life, not at a “convention”, but walking to work or school every day. We aren’t grouped in “delegations”; we are members of a family, part of a community.

I’ve wondered if I should put a sign up, inviting passers-by to come on up, set a spell … that might be weird.

Anyway – I nominate The Front Porch – even if it’s just a “stoop” or a step – for one of my favorite and most informative places on earth.

Mark Demers

Want to talk about sex, politics, spirituality? So do I. I grew up in a religious home in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Our country was reeling from assassinations and the devastation of the Viet Nam War. Looking for something beautiful, I got a degree in music, married the love of my life and had children. Looking for God, I then went to seminary. Looking for something that might transform the world, I became a local church pastor. Now, I’m always looking for people who want to talk about important things. I cherish conversations with emerging leaders, people who are antsy to try an idea they believe would change the world for the better. I’d would love to hear from you.