The house of my heart (https://sustainabilitea.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/the-house-of-my-heart/) has a porch: a big, shady, lovely porch, filled with comfortable chairs, a porch swing, hopefully a hammock, and tables for drinks, books, magazines and food.

But the house of my reality, although it has many lovely features of which Sarah Susanka of The Not So Big House would approve, does not have this sort of porch.  It does have a small, covered area by the front door, not a porch, although a small chair might fit there if the door weren’t in use.  Our rental house in Naperville doesn’t have a porch either, but it does have a deck in the back.

The first house we lived in when I was a child had a porch, although we weren’t there long enough for me to have a memory of it.  Our second house had an enclosed porch, making it useful earlier and later in the year.  I don’t remember of there were screens for the windows or not; I think so.  We kept some things on the porch and it provided a welcome entryway in the frigid cold of Nebraska winters.  Our next-door neighbors didn’t use their porch much.  They preferred to peer from a crack in their curtains whenever they thought something of interest might be happening outside.  We called them “the peekers”.

This lack of porches is evident everywhere.  Look around your neighborhood.  How many houses have porches?  If you living in a area of older homes, most, if not all, are likely to have porches; in other places, not that many.  I lament the demise of the porch for a number of reasons.  The porch is a place where people can sit outside, enjoy the weather, talk instead of texting, chat instead of staring at the TV or laptop screen…spend time with real people or just alone outside.  It’s a place for relaxation and rejuvenation, for being around nature of some sort, for cooling off on a hot day or enjoying the first, feeble sunshine of spring.  A place for watching the grass turn green and the panoply of flowers work their way through the seasons of spring, summer and fall, to glory in the color of the leaves changing colors (or observing the flowers and cactus of the natural lawn in a desert setting), or maybe resisting the coming of winter by sipping on hot tea or coffee in the shorter light of the season while bundled up warmly.

The porch puts people out where they can see and be seen.  Their neighbors walk by, say hello, chat briefly or possibly stop and talk longer.  The porch puts people in the mood to talk with others.  Strangers are easily recognized when you’re used to seeing the people who live in or walk through your neighborhood.  I remember when the girls were little and we’d had the “don’t talk to a stranger” talk with them, I was working in the front yard (also a good way to meet people), and someone I didn’t know walked by.  I said hello, they replied, then walked on.  As they left, one of my daughters said, “Mom, do you know them?”  “No,” I replied.  “Mom, you talked to a stranger!!”  Sigh.  Let’s try this again.

What about a deck?  It’s true that a deck allows people to get outside, grill, relax.  And if there are lots of other people nearby with decks or working outside in the backyard, there are people with whom waves might be exchanged or greetings shouted.  Mostly, people just see who else is outside and sometimes wish the other people weren’t.  But unless people are cutting through your yard, there won’t be a stream of people going past.  A deck can be used for privacy or for a party.  However, to me, the deck is a wonderful thing in itself, but a poor substitute for a porch.  (Both would be even better, of course.)

A porches provides respite for the people who live in the house with the porch.  It promotes an outdoor aspect missing from the lives of many people these days.  Porches form community by putting people in proximity to their neighbors in a relaxed setting.  I lament the demise of the porch…and hope that it will make a comeback.

The porch is a beautiful thing,
especially nice in the spring.
You can sit right outside,
watching people go by,
and go back and forth in your swing.

Comments
  1. I Love this post, Janet. I have always wanted a house with a porch. I like all the pictures you chose too!

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