The front porch has become symbolic of the rural South and a cherished place for folks to relax, regroup and even make sense of world's problems. Pull up a rocking chair as Jim Mize shares his appreciation, encounters and musings from his cabin's front porch in rural South Carolina.
A good porch is better than blood pressure pills.
I say this as I am in full agreement with Ed Zern, a humor columnist for Field & Stream magazine years ago, when he wrote, “I get all the truth I need in the newspaper every morning, and every chance I get, I go fishing, or swap stories with fishermen, to get the taste of it out of my mouth.”
I am unable to fish every day, but I can find time to spend on the porch.
Country homes are often blessed with fine porches. My cabin is no exception.
The porch is screened in, long and narrow, and most of what I can see is hardwood forest.
In the winter, when the leaves are off the trees, my view extends to a far mountain that lies within a wilderness area. In the summer, the leaves shorten my view but make it no less interesting.
On a typical day, I bring Moose onto the porch with me just before sunset, and we watch darkness fall on the mountain.
Moose entertains himself by chewing the fuzz off a tennis ball while I ponder the remains of the day to the sounds of nature shifting from daytime to night.
I can envision these critters scurrying home at the end of the day.
Crows drift by black as shadows against the sky.
Pileated woodpeckers take an intermittent flap to fly back to their tree dens, emitting an occasional cackle.
Squirrels shake limbs as they travel, barking as if marking their progress.
And chipmunks scamper through the leaves running with their tails up like antennas.
From time to time, deer pass below my porch, emerging from the rhododendrons to browse on new growth. Moving slowly, their heads bob up at the least sound, pause until satisfied, and return to browsing.
When the weather is clear, the light fades, and I can watch the sunlight climb that far mountain as the sun sets.
I am often treated to a display of colors giving credence to the saying “red skies at night, sailors’ delight.” Actually, such views are a delight to all who get to see them.
Once dark, the show doesn’t end, but sound takes precedence over sight.
On some evenings, screech owls will begin a conversation close to my cabin. At times they seem to answer each other with their piercing calls.
On other occasions, I have had coyotes yap at each other close by. When that happens, Moose will raise his head, looking into the darkness as if he can see what I cannot. Satisfied, he then returns to his tennis ball.
One night, a bobcat came slipping up below my cabin, making only an occasional crunch in the leaves until it stopped about twenty yards away. Then it screamed and caused the hair on my neck to stand. Afterwards, it slipped away without another sound.
In between the entertainment of the creatures and the sky, I ponder the events of the day and the news of the world and generally have it sorted out before I leave the porch.
If my mind wanders too far, Moose brings me back by dropping the tennis ball at my feet, his hint that it needs to be thrown and retrieved.
A porch may seem like a boring place to anyone who has not spent time on one.
But with the changing seasons, the shift from day to night, and the sights and sounds of nature, it’s a show that only happens once a day.
A Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, is often credited with a saying that has been paraphrased many times and goes something like this, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
I feel that way about time on the porch.
Rather than letting someone else on the television or the internet arrange my thoughts for me, I do it myself with Moose as my guide. He rarely steers me wrong, and we manage to figure out what really matters.
So when it seems that the world is in turmoil, I can reduce the important issues to the fuzz on a tennis ball and the scream of a bobcat. Images from the internet can be replaced with red skies at sunset. And my last thoughts of the day are usually good ones.
Besides, the tranquility of a fine porch is good for your blood pressure.