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. Continue reading
It started with the left arm. There was a dropped stitch, a slight irregularity in the smooth, sweet rhythm of the yarn. The sweater-in-process, lovely and green, the color of wild asparagus, lay in pieces across the dining room table – its back, two arms and cabled front the eventual shape of loving, hand-knit warmth.
Still, that dropped stitch was causing consternation. Halfway up one sleeve, it would have nestled into the bend of an elbow, barely detectable and probably unseen to even a well-trained eye until it began to pull apart. But the knitter – proficient, quick, given to knitting argyles and Arans in darkened movie theatres – spotted it and felt it looming like an accusation. “I’ll just unravel that sleeve and do it over,” she said. “It’ll take a little more time than picking up the stitch but after all – we want it to be perfect.”
With the sleeve unraveled and the yarn gently re-wound, she began to knit again. This time there were no dropped stitches, no errors, but a more subtle issue soon emerged. Intent on re-doing the sleeve perfectly, she may have been a little tense. While she knit, the tension worked its way through her hands, down the needles and into the yarn, making the stitches in the repaired sleeve noticeably tighter. On a completed sweater the separation of the sleeves might have negated the difference in appearance. Side-by-side on the dining table, the variation was obvious. “Humph,” said the knitter, who had plenty of time and a tendency toward obsession. “I’ll just do that sleeve again.” Continue reading
New Year’s Eve parties and New Year’s Day resolutions sparkle in the post-Christmas darkness, tied to one another like binary stars orbiting some common, celebratory mass. For the observer, determining which tradition is primary and which exists as its secondary companion requires an occasional squint. With true star pairs like Algol (an eclipsing binary) or Sirius (a visual binary), objective measurements can be taken. The relationship between New Year parties and resolutions is more complex and subjective. Judgments about their importance relative to one another depend upon a person’s vantage point, and judgments necessarily change from year to year.
Like most children, I first associated the New Year with parties. Dressed for the evening in velvet and jewels, my mother was dazzling. Resplendent in his cummerbund, my father gave her his arm and they vanished into the night, my Prince and Princess leaving me in the charge of Mrs. Wilstermann, an aged babysitter who obligingly fell asleep, leaving me free to forage through the cupboards for cookies. I never found the cookies and I never heard my parents return, but every New Year’s day I awoke to a dining table overflowing with paper streamers, silly, glittering hats and cheap tin noisemakers. They never forgot. Continue reading
This post has been rewritten, and reposted as “Becoming the Sky.” Please click the link to be taken to the new version.