Ode to a Porch

I sit on the porch, rain lightly falling around me. The roof over my head, the eaves hanging down, protect me–allow me to sit in the midst of nature, without the threat of bee stings, mosquito bites, or rain. I sit at the table facing one corner–the corner that looks out at the yard next door. The white picket bridge over the creek, a red leafed tree behind it, and beyond that a cherry blossom covered in white blooms.

The rain means outdoor work has stopped, so this afternoon I will not be bothered by the yard workers revving their motors to maintain a lush green lawn that no one ever uses. The renovation on the house across the alley has also stopped, the sounds of their machines replaced by the sound of rain falling into puddles.

I remember when my landlords first showed me this cabin. We entered the living room where a round wooden table dominated one corner. “That’s where you’ll eat during the winter,” my landlady said. I was a bit confused until we got to the porch.

porchI recall last summer spending mornings in the chaise lounge out here, eating a bowl of yogurt and muesli, my glass of water on the green shelf next to me. I didn’t sit at the table mindlessly eating while reading a book. Breakfast was the meal I ate mindfully–or at least tried to.

I recall packing lunches to bring to work, so I could eat quickly in the office, and thereby leave earlier in exchange for taking so little time for lunch. As spring blossomed I realized I needed a break at midday and drove home (a mere two miles) for lunch each day. I had time to cook if I wanted, or I simply took leftovers out to the porch. At the table birds provided my soundtrack, a book my entertainment, with commercial breaks provided by the squirrels.

I recall those work days when my lunch hour just wasn’t enough, when I wished I could spend the whole afternoon out here. Indeed I did on weekends, when I spent entire days moving between the chaise lounge, book in hand, and the kitchen: eating and reading the only tasks on my agenda.

There were entire months I ate every meal on this porch.

“So you’re going to lose the cabin . . .” my mother said when I told her of my plan to head to France for three months.

“Well, yeah. They’re thinking of selling the property in the spring,” which meant I could possibly be given one month’s notice to move anyway.

I was thinking how sad it is to leave this place. Of all the homes I’ve had since leaving my parent’s house, this, by far, has been my favorite. When I first moved in I would often stop what I was doing to reach out and lay my hand on a log. I loved that I could see so clearly what my house was made of. No insulation or sheet rock hiding its bones.

I realized today marks thirty days until my departure from this place. And today I am trying to change my thinking from “I only have thirty days” to “I have thirty more days!”

Free-Spirited Spinster?

I stood on the front porch of the Unwound yarn shop in Blowing Rock, NC, chatting with three women I’d met just a few minutes earlier inside the shop.  They were on a day trip to the area. I was two weeks into my sabbatical year, taking my sweet old time driving down the Blue Ridge Parkway.  As travelers are bound to do, we all got to chatting.

“Where are you from?” they asked.

“New York,” I said, already trying to figure out how to answer the inevitable next question.

“And what are you doing here?”

Where to start? “I’m on my way to Brasstown, North Carolina, and decided to drive for a spell along the Parkway.”

And that’s when we jumped down the rabbit hole. Each question they asked plunged them deeper and deeper into my story. They learned I’d just gotten rid of most of what I’d owned, that I was about to start a four-month stint at the John Campbell Folk School, that my sabbatical year would culminate in my walk along the Camino to Santiago.

“You’re a free spirit!” one of the women said. 

“I am indeed.” I thought of my littlest sister Meg who introduces me to her friends saying, “This is my free-spirited sister,”   usually followed by, “you know, the one who’s getting rid of all her stuff and going around the world.”

The woman on the porch of the yarn shop continued. “When you’re done with the free-spirit part, marry a good-looking man — and make sure he’s a democrat.”

I laughed.  “I’m hoping I don’t have to end my free-spirit days in order to get married.”

She considered that and quickly agreed.

This idea–that travel is something to “get out of my system” before I “settle down”–is one I don’t know that I agree with. A few months before I started my sabbatical  friends starting saying things like, “You’re going to meet someone the day before you leave. What would you do if that happened?”

“I’d still go,” I said, matter-of-factly.  There were no other options in my book.  I do some drastic things, but canceling a whole year of adventures because I meet someone who just may want to date me? Marry me even? “If he’s really that interested, it will work out regardless.” 

“Good for you,” they would say.

Then there were those who thought, myself included, that I’d meet someone over the course of my travels. That sounded more plausible then meeting someone in my hometown the day before I left. “I’m sure he’s out there traveling the world, so I’m going to find him,” I told a couple people when pressed on the topic. Indeed, I met more than a few fascinating traveling souls, but our time together was that of two free-spirits who cross paths briefly and then go on our respective journeys elsewhere.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m not meant to simply live the life of a single woman. Not long after one of my sisters announced she was pregnant, I had visions of being the spinster aunt–the “crazy” one with the wild hair, a cottage in the woods. My niece would love coming to visit; my sister would dread sending her worried what fanciful ideas I’d put in her head.

I laugh at that thought as I sit here on the porch of my cozy cabin next to my babbling brook, the sun peeking through the clouds, my hair unbrushed.

My back porch

My back porch

A Place of Her Own

While unpacking, I came across a picture I’d drawn a few months ago. A small house.  A garden beside it. Two chairs facing each other, outside under a tree.

I stared at the picture. I’m in that house. 

Around the drawing I’d written phrases. As I read them, I couldn’t believe it.

 People will see my little house and say, ‘It’s so you!’ And it will be.

 There’s room for visitors inside.  They come. From near and far. Old friends and new. The old ones say, “I’ve never seen you this happy.” 

This is my attempt at a garden. It will truly be an “attempt.” 

 I’ll also have an outdoor seating area.  I’ll use it a lot, with my visitors especially, but it will also have a comfy cushioned chair where I write.  

 I had read many times about “visualizing” your future. I had never consciously tried it. The picture in front of me was something I did one day spur-of-the-moment, pulling out my markers and my poster-size post-its (since I can’t write on my walls). I was daydreaming about the tiny house I’d build one day.

As I pondered the images and words before me I noticed that nowhere had I written that I would build this place. And indeed I hadn’t. I had found it on craigslist just one week earlier.

I pulled up to it and tried to keep my feelings in check — I thought it was adorable but didn’t want to get my hopes up before I’d even walked in. But as I walked up to the door to meet the owners, I couldn’t help but hang my mouth open in amazement. I can see myself here. 

The owners took me through the front door and into the living room, and a great sense of calm came over me. This was it.

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But you can’t make decisions so quickly, my rational side said. So I told the landlady I’d need to sleep on it.

I called Mom. I told her about the screened in porch and the babbling brook.”You know,” she said, “I only had one dream of your grandmother after she died. In it, she was rushing me through a small house to show me she now had what she’d always wanted: a screened in porch. And I think there was a brook beside it.”

An evening view from the porch into the bedroom.

An evening view from the porch into the bedroom.

I hung up the phone and called the landlady. It was mine.

I sent pictures to friends. Just as my drawing predicted, many of them said, “This is so you!” In just three days, I’ve had the visitors from near and far that I wrote about. The landlady has a garden just across the brook and said she’d be happy to teach me her gardening secrets. And that comfy chair for writing? It’s on the screened-in porch.

Until the weather warms up, this is where I have my morning tea.

Until the weather warms up, this is where I have my morning tea.

The cabin has, in the past, been used as a vacation rental. The guestbook is filled with people professing their love for it, and for Asheville.

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“My mother says a guestbook goes with a house,” I told the landlady, recalling the guestbook my parents inherited with their lakehouse.

“Oh, yes, I agree,” she said, encouraging me to continue it’s use. And I surely will. (Consider this your invitation.)

The pie safe in the living room...

The pie safe in the living room…

The stained glass in the porch door.

The stained glass in the porch door.

Lift his beard to find a door lock.
Lift his beard to find a door lock.