On The Porch: Perspectives in the Afternoon of Life

I’ve never met a porch I didn’t like. It’s what I notice first about a house: Is there a porch and what is its purpose? Is it a wrap-around veranda that provides places for secret conversations on the side of the house or a screened-in porch that brings you a pest-free summer? Across the country, from Manhattan to Mill Valley, sitting on porches alone or with family and friends has calmed me and invited reflection, connection and a vantage point for watching people and the sky. The back porch where I grew up was a place to play house with my friends when I was a kid, to sit and consider the pangs of emerging adulthood during college breaks and, on summer evenings after her stroke, to give Mom and me a respite from the demands of her dementia.

There’s also something about sitting on porches in the later afternoon, when the day is winding down and the quality of light starts to change. As the sun edges towards the horizon the clear white light of day slowly deepens, then sharpens into bold gold Rembrandt hues. Everything takes on a new cast. The underbellies of trees are revealed as light sprays them from below. Some people stop and take note, most walk on. Some birds cease to sing while others chirp anew. My breath slows, my eyes fill with beauty.

I am 60, closing in on 61. Spiritually and energetically I am somewhere between a two-year old and a crone. By the sundial, I’m in the afternoon of my life. I don’t know what that afternoon will be, whether long and lazy or fast and full, or something else entirely. Whatever it is, it will certainly retain the magic of extraordinary light, of a knowing that night is not far away, that darkness will reveal things unseen by day and, at some point, I will sleep.

However, there are miles to go before I do, and those miles bring new learning in this particular light. What better place to consider and contemplate than a chair or a swing or a couch or a rocker on the porch. Come join me in a cup of tea or a glass of lemonade, or sometimes a margarita or a flute of French champagne. Be my companion as we consider the aging of our parents and ourselves, as we gaze upon the past and present of our lives and the world with a seasoned eye, and as we look to the future with more experience of uncertainty under our belts.

Take off your shoes and sit a spell.