We need thresholds in our daily lives, so that we clearly move from one sphere of life to another. The soul needs a variety of places where it can retreat and disappear from life. David Whyte
Porches are important rooms. They open an interior room into the out of doors. They snuggle up against a part of a house and offer shelter from the elements. They invite another kind of living. While there are porches that are enclosed for year around living, it is the seasonal porches that I have experienced.
In my childhood home, there was great eagerness for that day in spring when the porch was prepared for use. This involved cleaning the floor, putting up the screens, and setting up the room for family meals and enjoyment. The door that had been closed all winter was now opened, welcoming a new room into use and activity. I especially remember summer evenings snuggled into a chair, a reading lamp next to me, a book in my lap, and the sounds of a summer night as the backdrop.
Simplicity has three open porches. One runs across the entire front of the house, one along the west side of the house, and the third is more of a balcony on the second floor. All three are similar with the same white railing, yet each has a specific use and intention. The front porch welcomes our sociable natures. The side porch supports our solitude. The upper porch has succumbed to being the best location to shake the rugs and airdry laundry.
Most of our outdoor living happens on the side porch, located off our kitchen entrance. A hanging swing and a table and chairs distinguish this porch from the others. Private enough, it allows us to sit in pajamas with our morning cup of coffee or have a quiet meal out of view. Occasionally walkers going by the house in the mornings will wave or nod an acknowledgement of this woman in her bathrobe. You can almost hear their thoughts. Is it too intrusive to wave? Is this a private moment not to be disturbed?
When Don and I wish to be more sociable we sit on the front porch. We greet our neighbors and those who pass by. Conversations easily happen across the yard, the street, the driveway and frequently people stop to chat. They, too, feel more comfortable greeting us when we are on our more public porch.
Simplicity’s porches help us transition our lives. They slow us down by physically opening us into the outside world, and mentally, by inviting us to dream, imagine, and remember. This simple appendage to a house has the power to introduce us to that space between two worlds, of being inside and outside at the same time. A simple space that brings a sense of calm, rest, and the opportunity to think on life.
Here is where we live from early spring to late fall. I am out there first thing each morning and multiple times during the day. This is the place that supports my thoughts, my questions, my daily grounding. I prefer the side porch because it feels more secluded, private, quiet. It suits my reflective activities. Don prefers the front porch with the activity of the neighborhood and the birds that come to bathe in the garden birdbath. It is not unusual to find each of us in our two worlds. Don sitting on the front porch, comfortable in one of our white Adirondack chairs, thinking and jotting down his internal landscape while I sit on the side porch, writing or sketching at the small round table.
Birds surround us. We are easily entertained by their movements as they dart and dive. The squirrels add their gymnastics, jumping from limb to limb, tree to tree. Recently a Cooper’s hawk nested next door and the neighborhood wildlife is all a flutter. The screeching hawks keep everyone moving. Birds do not linger. Squirrels and rabbits dart undercover. Nature’s story is watched from our porch view of the world.
I have wondered how I would feel about Simplicity if she did not offer these very fine outdoor rooms which extend and expand our living, our lives. It would not be the same. Sitting on the porch, I easily transport myself onto a still lake or nature preserve. There is a stillness, a peace of mind. Here is where problems are solved, dreams are given wings, and quiet thoughts are nurtured. For me, this is where my soul retreats.