I love porches, and have since childhood. I love porch sitting, porch reading and even porch painting. Most of all, I love porch music. Simple or complex, played by a group or a single lonesome fiddler, it’s a delight. Even the most down-home instrument – a washtub bass, a ukelele, a buzzing, well-played comb – makes me smile.
One of my favorite musical groups is the E-Flat Porch Band from McKinney, Texas. They’ve made their way around the state for years, and it’s always a pleasure to hear them – so much so that I’ll actually get in the car and travel to have the chance. I would have introduced them to you sooner, but there hasn’t been a video available of any quality. Now there is.
As entertaining as porch music can be, other things happen on porches. People visit with their neighbors and snap beans. They discuss politics, watch the grandkids play in the yard and hope upon hope that no one comes along to remind them of undone chores. You can find breezes on the porch in summer, and watch leaves drift in the fall. You can drink coffee, check your email, scratch the dog’s ears and even take a nap, if you really trust your neighbors. Porches are for solitary dreaming and family chatter – they’re one of the semi-permeable membranes of human social life.
Recently, I discovered someone making use of his front porch in a slightly different way. Dave Bonta, photographer, writer, affable blogger and gentle curmudgeon has tucked something special next to his terrific Via Negativa. Called The Morning Porch, it’s a collection of sights gleaned from his front porch view first thing in the morning, little bits of reality captured in 140 or fewer characters and transcribed purely for enjoyment. His entries are amazingly descriptive, occasionally amusing and always of interest to someone who loves the natural world.
As I mentioned to Dave recently, I’d been pondering the matter of Lenten discipline when I stumbled onto his porch. While not strictly religious, the discipline of looking - really looking – at the world fresh each morning could be beneficial in a number of ways. So, in the spirit of appreciative emulation rather than slavish imitation, I’ve begun my own 40 days of morning-looking-around, just to see what I might see.
While The Morning Porch is Dave’s, there are plenty of porches – or at least perches – in every neighborhood. With that in mind, I’m calling my little collection A View From Another Porch. While I’ll certainly be adding new posts on other subjects throughout the season of Lent, each day an additional observation will be tucked in here. After not quite a week of looking around, I’m enjoying the discipline far more than I expected to, and I’m looking forward to continuing the heart and eye-opening exercise until Easter.
9 March ~ A rising cacophony of gulls tugs at my dreams and pulls me from slumber – an alarm unset by human hands.
10 March ~ Tethered and forlorn, the sleeping flock of boats stirs beneath a rising light, dreaming of movement, an improbable escape.
11 March ~ Close along the horizon, yellow threads of smoke lie warp to sunlight’s weft, dying distant grasses become new patterns for the day.
12 March ~ Patches of turquoise and terra cotta cloud float across the water – reflected, watery gems strung along a heavy, silver sky.
13 March ~ Raucous and demanding, the bluejay calls in flight. Responsive and dependable, I lay shelled pecans along the railing. We know one another.
14 March ~ Puzzled by my rising, the calico prowls and poses at the window, sniffing for the dawn. Across the still-dark room I whisper, “Time changes”.
15 March ~ Whorls of wind-blown pollen skim across the water and splash onto the shore, a sheen of green potential draped across the rocks.
16 March ~ Unmoving and silent beneath a dense and overspreading fog, the world crouchs and waits, daring the creatures of the day to cross her path.
17 March ~ A sharp chitter and chirring of sparrows streams from the heart of the ficus, tiny jackhammers of sound breaking silence into bits.
18 March ~ Motionless as decoys, mallards drowse away the dawn. Even the gossipy female tucks her head, floating silent and still on a shining pool.
19 March ~ Roils of seagull laughter bubble up and flow into the silence, tumbling, infectious cascades of chatter demanding, “Look at me! Look at me!”
20 March ~ Spreading sunlight warms the palms, coaxing the doves to life. A lifted wing, a murmured endearment and they face the day, gentle and serene.
21 March ~ Puffed up with pride in their cottony finest, cloud families stroll the morning’s turquoise boulevards, wispy hands entwined.
22 March ~ A xylophone of masts stirs to life beneath the rising breeze, their tinkling halyards tuned to echo childhood’s long-forgotten song.
23 March ~ Only a lightening sky suggests the dawn while a single, metronome sparrow ticks off the minutes until true sunrise. Chirp Chirp Chirp Chirp
24 March ~ Gray skies, gray water, gray-green trees in the half-light. Wrapped in a chrysalis of gray the world waits to split open into sunlight.
25 March ~ Huddled beneath the cactus pads a single clover blooms, fragile as sugar spun beneath the spines but safe, a bit of determined pink and white.
26 March ~ A jangle of chain, a rush of wings and harsh, metallic complaints sundering the silence – dogs walk, and the night’s last heron retreats.
27 March ~ Dark skies, dark water, shadowless trees and silent birds. A single light clicks on, filling the void with a glimmering affirmation of life.
28 March ~ Unexpected, rushing down from the clouds like a sudden, northern sigh, the wind writes its will upon the water and is gone.
29 March ~ Sad, iridescent rainbows swirl and twist along the water’s edge, their oily sheen arching behind a rain of human carelessness.
30 March ~ Cold and bereft, scoured dry even of dew by a rising northern wind, the world grieves her loss – the longed-for rain has passed her by.
31 March ~ Shining and silver, glass minnow schools shatter and scatter across the water’s surface, their shush of sound an obbligato to the morning.
1 April ~ New pads crown the spineless cactus, their thick, green thorns as soft as kittens’ fur. Touching them, I hear nature’s voice: “April Fool!”
2 April ~ A familiar, rhythmic drumming pierces through early bird chatter. Scanning the forest of masts I wonder – would a woodpecker peck that wood?
3 April ~ Irritating seagulls, indistinct colors, blurred sightlines & faded flowers – viewing the world through grumpy eyes with a broken coffee pot.
4 April ~ An unseen hand stirs the pot of fragrance simmering just out of sight: wisteria and honeysuckle, honey-sweet hawthorn, a soupçon of rain.
5 April ~ Coaxed from hiding by an incessant wind the sandbars emerge, crouching by the bulkheads like great, gentle creatures of the depths.
6 April ~ A bluejay pair flies low and fast, silent streaks of blue swirling around the feeder.Their to & fro tells the tale – new parents on the wing.
7 April ~ Two hours until midnight. Herons call across the darkened water, startled and alert, beginning their own new day under the slivered moon.
8 April ~ Flashing indigo in the sunlight, the bunting lands, turns, preens and is gone, a tumbling jewel in search of the perfect setting.
9 April ~ Weariness, stiffness, twinges and pain – a lavish bouquet of morning afflictions embellishes the window and obscures the view.
10 April ~ Insistent and sweet, a froth of calling doves pours across the rich and fragrant darkness. I sip the silence through their sounds.
11 April ~ Like a mournful dove crossing a dry and dusty water dish, I begin my own morning trek and wonder: does a watched cloud ever drizzle?
12 April ~ Dusted and swept by the wind the world shimmers and shines, its sunlight and shadows, edges and angles a ready stage for dramas of the day.
13 April ~ Like cellophane crinkling or a creak of gravel underfoot, the tiny sound suffuses morning’s hush – the sparrows are cracking their seed.
14 April ~ Tumulous cumulus, sodden and gray, pile and tumble and whip through the skies, filled with abandon, abandoned by rain.
15 April ~ Like cool cloths on a fevered brow, the morning’s dew and tender light relieve symptoms but never cure – the prescription is for rain.
16 April ~ No need to turn, to rise and look – morning cold drifts through my window, a still and smoke-smudged Autumn come to visit Spring.
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