Sunday, August 22, 2010

Porch Sitting

For those of you who stopped by to see if I ranted, I decided to employ the 24 Hour Rule. If I'm still stewing over the issue 24 hours from now, I'll rant. For right now, I'm attempting to keep things in perspective.

Instead I'm pondering porches. Down here in the Florida Keys (Up here if you're reading this in Central or South America), my little house overlooks part of a harbor. At some point every day I sit out on the porch, looking out at the water. It's a peaceful, calm location most of the time. I've seen manatees and dolphins swim by and tarpons roll on a summer evening. Sea gulls, pelicans and cormorants perch on the pilings or dive for fish. A Great White Heron occasionally struts along the sea wall or an iguana scoots along, hoping I don't see him. If I approach, he jumps into the water and swims a comfortable distance away.

There are always boats anchored on mooring buoys in back of the house. In the winter, there might be 30 or 40 at a time. On any day tall-masted sailboats and solid cruisers could be my temporary neighbors. In the meantime, boats of all sizes and kinds cruise by the house on their way out to or home from the ocean. Sometimes it's the vessel of people I know and we call out hellos and wave like you might to a neighbor strolling past your house.

Earlier today, I watched and listened to a man calling for his dog while he rowed from his boat to the island across the way. The dog went for a spontaneous swim at low tide and then decided to chase some birds. The whole time that the man rowed, he kept up a monologue about wanting the dog to come back, he wasn't happy, the dog was being bad. The dog did not reply but eventually he jumped into the boat. The man hugged him, ruffled his fur and began to row them home.

Seven or so years ago, a drunk jerk kicked his dog overboard and yelled that he hoped she'd drown. Someone jumped in his inflatable runabout and fished the pooch out of the water. I took her in and got her to shelter. A friend of mine later adopted her.

My porch is the perfect spot to watch our town's tremendous fireworks display on the Fourth of July or the holiday boat parade in early December. (Note to self: I promised to enter my boat this year. Must enlist help from friends to decorate and ride with me.)

I enjoy having friends over to relax on an evening, sip wine, nibble on snacks and talk. Some say this porch is one of their favorite places in the Keys. I know it's one of mine.

Porches have a high social value. My childhood home had an open front porch. I remember late summer afternoons with family and friends gathered together. We kids sipped juices or soda and played on the sidewalk and front yard while our parents enjoyed gin and tonics or whiskey sours. Up and down the street, neighbors were out on their porches, enjoying the ocean breeze.

The house we moved to when I was 12 or 13 had a "sunroom" with big plate-glass windows instead of an open porch, but there was an open deck on the second floor. During the day we'd sunbathe up there. The sunroom provided year-round street viewing. The neighbors never walked past without waving. We were only a few houses from the beach and boardwalk so there was usually a steady parade of people that ambled by or rode their bikes in the evening. One year we noticed that a particularly good looking guy jogged by every night. Mom teased my friends and me that no matter what we were doing, we made sure to get to the sunroom when he was due for his nightly run.

There's a big chunk of time in my life when I didn't have a porch on which to sit and connect to the neighborhood. Various apartments didn't provide the same social setting. I wonder now how much I must have missed, what I might have seen, or with whom I might have chatted.

There are always stories outside waiting to be discovered and all you have to do is spend aome time sitting on a porch.


Hope said...

Our porch is in terrible shape. :(

I need a ticket to the Keys in December so I can decorate your boat with you!

Chris said...

You will have to take a picture of your view and post it. I traveled to the keys once back when I was and it was gorgeous.

Mary Stella said...

Chris, I'll take some new pictures. In the meantime, the small picture on the blog by my name and About Me is one that I shot early in the morning from my porch.