Front porch musings

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“No front porches. My uncle says there used to be front porches. And people sat there sometimes at night, talking when they wanted to talk, rocking, and not talking when they didn’t want to talk. Sometimes they just sat there and thought about things, turned things over. My uncle says the architects got rid of the front porches because they didn’t look well. But my uncle says that was merely rationalizing it; the real reason, hidden underneath, might be they didn’t want people sitting like that, doing nothing, rocking, talking; that was the wrong kind of social life. People talked too much. And they had time to think. So they ran off with the porches.” ~ Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Yes, I know.  I’m on this front porch kick.  If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I just recently wrote a post lamenting how folks don’t seem to be outside their homes enjoying a nice Sunday afternoon and I don’t see people sitting on their front porches any more.

Maybe I am an old-fashioned person, but I truly miss those days of folks sitting on the front porch, waving at passersby, chatting with the neighbor, or simply watching the cars go by while enjoying a moment or two of quiet solitude.    

I do sit on my front porch pretty often.  One of the regrets I have is that when we built our home, we didn’t make the front porch bigger.  But it serves its purpose which is to house my favorite piece of outdoor furniture – our porch swing. 

I grew up in a house with a large covered front porch.  And on that porch were several chairs and my favorite spot – the porch swing.

Memories wash over me when I remember that old porch swing.  I remember summer nights, swaying back and forth talking things over with my mother. Often, we didn’t speak at all, just swung in perfect rhythm and enjoyed the cricket concert and firefly show in our yard.

Other times, I perched on the swing and watched summer thunderstorms.  My parents settled on the porch on weekday evenings and Sunday afternoons and waved to all the folks who drove by.  Sometimes a car would stop and the driver would chat for a bit. Or the car would slowly turn into our driveway and the passengers would join us on the porch for some lively conversation.

The porch swing was always a big attraction.  It just seemed that folks gravitated to it.  I know I surely did.

It was where I swung my first baby to sleep many times that first summer and fall of her life while her daddy was in the military in a land far away. And when he finally came back to us and we moved once again to military base housing half-way across the country, I missed the porch swing.

Hubby bought one for me even though we didn’t have a big enough front porch to hang it on.  Instead we suspended it from a metal frame and plunked it down in the back yard where my good friend and next-door neighbor and I would swing our babies and share stories that cemented our friendship.

Many years later when we lived in a Pacific Northwest suburb, we didn’t have much of a front porch again, instead we had what I would call a stoop.   So the swing was relegated to a fenced-in tiny back yard where you felt secluded from all the neighborhood activity.  So most of the time, I sat on the hard cement front steps. We lived in a cul-de-sac and I could watch my kids play with all the neighbor kids from the stoop.  My neighbors were friendly folks and often a neighbor and I sat there to converse.  

That cement stoop fit the design of the saltbox style house we lived in, but how I missed having a real front porch to place my back yard swing upon.  That swing made the journey with us across the country to the place we now call home, this spot in the country. 

The metal frame is gone and my swing hangs from chains attached to the ceiling of the front porch.  The wooden swing has seen a lot of use, been cleaned and re-stained a few times, and it still is my happy place.  Even now, sweet grandbaby loves to sway back and forth with Nana or Papa on that front porch swing.

Occasionally when I’m sitting on the front porch, someone will drive by and toot their horn.  Even if I’m not certain who is beeping their greetings at us, I will throw up my arm and wave to acknowledge them.

And that often reminds me of one special old farmer man who always used to sit on his front porch too. 

In between military life and our time in the Pacific Northwest, Papa and I lived with our three kiddoes in the Midwest.  The land of wheat fields and sunflowers and an occasional tornado.  We lived in the suburbs for the first few years and then opted to move out of the suburban area a little further.   

We purchased a new home in a less developed area and traveled back and forth to more populated suburbs for shopping, or visits with friends, or trips into the city.  The highway we used traveled through farmland that was yet to be developed and along that road sat an old farmhouse where old farmer man lived.  Obviously retired and getting up in years, that gentleman could be seen sitting on his front porch, weather permitting. 

And here’s the thing.  He always waved to cars and trucks passing by his place.  Always.  Every single vehicle. Cars zoomed by and some folks ignored his greetings but still he waved whether people waved back to him or not. 

Not long after we moved there, I pointed him out to my husband and children.  And we began waving back to him every time he waved to us from his front porch.  Every time.

It became a fun ritual.  Our kids would watch to see if he was on the porch and lean out the open windows to vigorously wave to him.  When he wasn’t out, my children seemed disappointed.

Then came a period of time when old farmer man wasn’t on his porch very often.  Wondering if he was ill or incapacitated in some way, we missed his waves. Those short-lived encounters we enjoyed with this gentleman we didn’t even know had made our hearts happy.

And then one sunny, warm spring day, my children and I were on our way back home from some excursion and we were nearing farmer man’s house.  I looked, hoping but not really expecting to see him on his front porch.  And he was there! 

I slowed the car down and exclaimed, “Look, quick, farmer man’s on his porch!” to my kids.  They all threw their arms out the windows and waved to him excitedly. 

He had already thrown up his arm and hand in greeting, but when he spotted my children grinning and waving like there was no tomorrow, his wave immediately changed. 

A huge smile burst on his face as he leaned forward in his chair, then extended his arm in front of him and waved a rapid little continuous hand greeting from his wrist just like you would to a child. 

Joy.  I like to think that’s what farmer man experienced that day waving to my children.  I know that’s what was in our hearts.  And all these years – more than 20 years later – I still feel joy in my heart for that day.  And for farmer man’s waves.

And that’s what I miss.  The joy of people being neighborly.  The joy of making others happy with just a smile or a friendly greeting.  Maybe just a wave of a hand. 

Instead I see rudeness.  I see inconsiderate people.  I see strangers glaring at others instead of extending a hand of friendship. I see strife and anger and even downright meanness. And it makes me sad.

I live in a rural area outside a small town. You would think it would be friendlier than folks in the city, wouldn’t you? Some people are friendly…to those they already know.

I live in a rural area where houses have front porches yet I don’t even know my neighbors, except for John next door who my husband chats with occasionally when they are both outside.   He’s a good neighbor and Papa enjoys talking with him.

But when I tried to be neighborly with folks down the road and hand deliver their mail which was accidentally delivered to our mail box, I was treated rudely and practically had the door slammed in my face without even a thank you.

Call me old-fashioned.  Call me nostalgic.  But I continue to sit on my front porch, swinging on the porch swing, and yearning for simpler times when folks treated one another with kindness and consideration.  When they visited one another just for conversation. Or maybe just waved to a stranger.

“I nod to a passing stranger, and the stranger nods back, and two human beings go off, feeling a little less anonymous.” ~Robert Brault

©2015 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

My ‘Oh My’ Moment

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Not this zoo bear!

Dorothy should have been at my house yesterday.  In her red shoes.  On the yellow brick road.  Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion tagging along.

The Wizard of Oz has always been one of my favorite movies of all time.   When I was a child, I always watched it every time a television station broadcast it, usually at Thanksgiving.   My kids grew up watching it as well.

We often got a kick out of singing, “Follow the yellow brick road, follow the yellow brick road,  follow, follow, follow …” in our best munchkin voices.  One of the lines from the movie that has stuck with me over the years is when Dorothy and her odd friends chant, “Lions and tigers and bears…oh my!”

I had an “Oh My!” moment yesterday on Page 1, Chapter 9, in my Opportunity book.  On my front porch.

Hubby arrived home from work, changed his clothes, and ventured off to his civic club meeting.   Home alone for a couple of hours, with just kitty for company,  I decided to phone one of my best friends, Leigh, and chat awhile.  My front porch swing beckoned me, so I grabbed a glass of iced tea, my cell phone, and dialed her.

We chatted and gabbed and talked….as we always do….for quite some time.  Still full daylight, dusk wasn’t falling yet, and I fully intended to stay parked on the swing in the cool evening air discussing life with my long-time friend until one of two things occurred – either darkness descended or hubby came home.

But my porch swing reverie was cut short when I experienced a major “OH MY!” moment.  Right in the middle of an interesting story Leigh was telling, I noticed my cat scurrying from the sidewalk onto the porch.  I thought it was odd that she was kind of slinking along and came immediately to me.  Then I saw it.  OH MY!

A black snout emerged from around the corner where our front porch meets the garage.  My first thought was “Whose big black dog is running loose?”

Then I felt those fingers of fear gripping me and it felt like my heart jumped into my throat when I realized it wasn’t a dog!  That snout belonged to a really large head and that head was attached to an animal way too big to be a canine.    It was a BEAR!

A black bear lumbered into full view about 40 feet or so from where I sat.  OH MY!  I literally froze on the swing, whispered into my cell phone in a tiny, quiet voice, “I’m not going to talk because I’m freaking out right now.”  Leigh said, “What’s wrong?”  And I couldn’t answer as I sat perfectly still, eyes locked on that black creature.

The bear took a couple steps, looked right at me, and back tracked a step or so.  I was terrified it was going to come up on the porch when it took another step forward.  Right then, a neighbor across and down the road from our house, started mowing along his steep driveway.  The noise of his tractor evidently frightened the bear enough that it retreated and disappeared around the corner of my garage.   OH MY!

I gathered up enough wits to grab my iced tea (didn’t want to entice that bear ONTO the porch for something sweet) and to sprint to the front door, rush inside the house – the cat beat me in though! – and lock the door.  Once inside, heart pounding and feeling totally incredulous, I told Leigh, “Oh. My. Gosh.  I just saw a BEAR in my yard!”

And then she freaked out and, good friend that she is, listened as I gushed frantically about what just transpired and how it scared the daylights out of me!   OH MY!  I nervously looked out my windows, but the bear wasn’t in the front yard.  I went to the back of the house, looked out the kitchen windows, still babbling – probably incoherently – to my friend.  No bear there either.

Where did it go?  I can only assume it hurried down the hill behind my house and into the brush.  It seemed gone, but I fought off fear that it would come back.   Leigh was just relieved that I wasn’t going crazy or seriously harmed or something.  She laughed to calm my nerves and jokingly told me at first she couldn’t figure out what she had said that freaked me out so much.  OH MY!

Needless to say, I stayed in the house until hubby came home then repeated my “OH MY” moment for him.   I told him I thought my heart might have finally started beating normally, but that my “OH MY” moment had startled the heck out of me.   He couldn’t believe it either.  We’ve lived in this house for over 11 years now, and we have never, ever seen a bear in our yard – lots of other critters, never a bear!

We suspect this creature of the wild had visited our garden and was making its way to a scrumptious treat on the other side of our house.  That’s where the raspberry bushes are and they just started producing their second crop of berries.

As I’m writing this post, I’m discovering two things.  First, I didn’t have my camera on the porch with me, so I don’t have a picture of my visitor, so this picture I found will suffice (it looked just like this!).

And secondly, I don’t want to feed the bears!!!  I don’t want them visiting my yard or coming so near my house for a free lunch!  I prefer seeing bears from a distance or at the zoo, not a few feet from my front porch swing!

And I’ll tell you another thing….it’s bad enough being startled by a bear….but if I see a lion in my yard…or a tiger….I’m moving!!  Lions and tigers AND bears??  OH MY!  Dorothy, move over, I’m coming back to Kansas.

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Angry Birds acrobatics?

blogIMG_0316 (2)It looked like a scene right out of Angry Birds.

Birds plummeted through the sky like they were being shot out of a slingshot or a rocket.

Last evening after dinner, hubby went outside to finish mowing our two-plus acre yard.  I plunked down on the front porch swing, enjoying the cool evening air and engrossed in a book.

I didn’t pay much attention to hubby’s mowing job, but the steady roar of our trusty John Deere lawn tractor sounded in my ears, as well as a car or truck passing by.  An occasional car horn toot to sound hello greetings from a friend driving past caused me to raise my head from my book and wave.

Suddenly the droning stopped and I heard my husband yell for me.  I stood up, turned around because he was in the side yard behind me, wondering what was wrong.  He was just sitting on the tractor with a goofy grin on his face and I couldn’t figure out why he wanted my attention.  And then I saw them.  Birds!

The birds were going crazy!  A flock of birds were swooping, dive-bombing and coming awfully close to my husband’s head!  They circled around him; they flew straight up into the air and then made a beeline for the ground.  They quickly darted through the air, floating and turning, soaring and swerving.

Hubby laughed, “Look at the bird acrobatic show!”  I watched as they catapulted through the air, lunging and plunging, flying and diving each time.  I felt certain they were attacking him because they flew extremely close to him.

“What’s going on?” I asked.  “Why are they angry at you?  Is there a nest nearby or what?”

“No,” he replied.  “This happens every time I mow.  I think I’m stirring up all the bugs in the ground and the birds are flocking in to eat them.”

A feeding frenzy.  Not angry birds, hungry birds foraging for a tasty treat, thanks to the human on the noisy mower.

Hubby shrugged, started up the tractor, and proceeded with his lawn manicure job.  And the birds kept up their acrobatic performance.  I imagine there were some satisfied songbirds with full tummies.

I sat back down on the porch swing, picked up my book, listened to the tractor’s constant hum, inhaled the scent of freshly cut grass, and a big satisfied sigh escaped from me.  Ah, life in the country…. no annoying noise, no loud neighbors, no steady stream of traffic, no distractions, no addicting games like Angry Birds.

Just a simple evening enjoying the simple things in life, including a few hungry birds.  In my Opportunity book, Chapter 8, Page 26, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

View from my window

blogDSCN6985“All the windows of my heart I open to the day.” ~ John Greenleaf Whittier

Each morning as we awaken, I wonder how many of us look out the window.  I do.  It’s one of the first things I accomplish.

I check to see if it’s sunny, or pouring down rain, is there frost on the ground or maybe snow?  In many ways, the view outside my window sets my mood for the day. Sunshine usually makes me happy, but I can even get excited about snowflakes in the air.

Looking out my window today here are the things I observe.  The sky is brilliant blue with tufts of white puffy clouds, and the sun is radiantly beaming down on our two and a half-acre yard causing shadows here and there.

A refreshing wind blew in overnight and pushed out the heat and humidity from yesterday (it was 89 degrees).   The maple trees, which are just starting to show a hint of changing colors, are gently swaying back and forth in the gusts of wind that come along.  The leaves wave at me as if to say, “Notice us because before too long, we will be gone!”

My empty porch swing also sways back and forth in the gentle breeze.  Soon it will be time to store all the outdoor furniture away for the winter.  Our potted flowers, which once beautified the front porch and deck with spots of dazzling color, are now withered and dried, another sign of the summer season’s wane.

Occasionally, a car or pick-up truck passes by our house on the road in front of our home.   There’s never much traffic out our way because most people travel the four-lane highway to get where they’re going.

Hubby is out back burning some trash.  We live in the country where one can burn paper and cardboard, thus making our garbage load in the landfills a little lighter.  Hubby stops to take a cell phone call; it’s a long one.

He hunkers down by the compost pile and continues to talk, shielding the phone from the wind no doubt.  Suddenly, he stands up and waves his arms.  Uh-oh, I can tell he’s a little agitated by the call—must be work related.

Coming in for a cool drink of home-made iced tea, hubby tells me about his phone call.  One of the things I admire about my husband is his ability to get over anger quickly.  He’s already calmed down and goes back outside to jump on the John Deere lawn tractor and mow the lawn, a task he always seems to enjoy.

Our garden, which just a few weeks ago, was vibrantly growing and out of control, is now half bare; only the pepper plants, a few cherry tomatoes, and the Brussels sprouts remain.  The cheery sunflowers are bowing their heads lower and lower each day.

Large black crows, with their cacophonous caws, visit our yard enticed by the promise of sunflower seeds.  Their presence sends our kitty cat into a tizzy.   How dare those brazen birds enter her yard?!

Once the crows withdraw, it’s quiet except for the drone of the lawn tractor.   Many people might think it’s mundane living out here in the country without any hustle and bustle.  To us, it’s just an everyday occurrence and that’s the way we like it.  We wouldn’t want it any other way.

I lift up a thankfulness prayer to the One who gave us this blessed, peaceful life and the promise of tomorrow, when I once again will check the view from my window.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” ~ Colossians 4:2

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com