It is silly, I know, but with the weather forecast today predicting a temperature of 100° I’m sitting here in my air-conditioned study wondering if I’ll be able to sit on the deck this morning. The deck is very small, only 10’ x 12’ with a little awning for shade, but in my mind it is spacious. My study is about the same size as the deck and it, too, for me, is a spacious space. Both the study (especially in the winter) and the deck (especially in the summer) provide me “a place to sit and think and look out on the stream of life.”
I grew up in a house with a large back porch. It had bannisters all around it. In my childhood imagination those bannisters became more than bannisters. Straddling one of those bannisters, I would ride my imaginary horse for hours, leading my imaginary band of “cowboys” across the plains and mountains of my mind. Oh, what wondrous adventures I enjoyed on that porch.
The porch also provided a place to play on a rainy day and a place where we sat as a family in the summer evenings. I can still see my mother and grandmother sitting there snapping green beans or shelling lima beans, or my father and grandfather cutting potatoes to plant in the newly plowed garden. It was there, in the summer time, that baskets of tomatoes and peaches and other vegetables were placed awaiting canning. My brother and I, sneaking a salt shaker from the kitchen and a tomato from one of the baskets, would climb a tree in the back yard and enjoy one of the best snacks in all the world. The porch was a breath of fresh cool air compared to the heat within our house in mid-summer. When visitors came, we would all go to that spacious porch, the children playing on one side and the adults, sitting in the rocking chairs, on the other.
I should add that there was another dimension to our back porch—it had a crawl space beneath it . That space became special too. It was a place to hide when playing “hide and seek” and a place to hide when Mom was looking for us to do some chore. It, too, was spacious when seen and experienced with the eyes of a child.
“The disappearance of the porch on our houses,” Douglas Steere quotes, “is something to think over. This old porch represented a contemplative element in American life” and was a place to spend leisure, to read, “a place to sit and think and look out on the stream of life.”The deck awaits me and bids me come, to sit beneath the awning and think and look out on the stream of life.