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A Porch with a View

Our house originally had a low-to-the-ground, Italianate porch. Simple uprights supported the roof, with ornate gingerbread at their tops, and no railing between them. The whole thing was falling apart; we had it rebuilt. Since our kids were young, we added a railing, to keep them from stepping off into the garden.

These days, our needs have changed: our daughters have flown the nest, and I've put two chairs and a chaise lounge on the porch for relaxing. However the railing meant you couldn't see the garden, unless you stood up. I decided it should go.

Ward was a bit reluctant, but the irises helped me persuade him. Iris are the one flower he really relates to; so ten years ago I planted a 3 foot by 20 foot bed of them. I mentioned seeing them better — and out came the reciprocating saw; the rail was gone in 15 minutes.

It made a bigger change than I'd expected. In addition to seeing the garden from the porch, now we can also see it from the kitchen window that looks onto the porch. From the porch we can now see not only the iris bed, and the other borders over at the front of the yard, but also — without leaning over the rail — the plants right next to the porch.

Plus the new arrangement changed my idea of what belonged in that bed next to the porch. Before, with the railing, the plants in front of it weren't high enough for me; I was having trouble finding ones that would grow there that looked right with it. But with the rail gone, lower-level plants look just right.

But the biggest change is that the porch is now a place to spend time in: an outdoor room, not just a hall. Not only to gaze at the garden, but while gazing, to ... watch the world go by: the kids playing in our out-of the-way street, the families walking by at dusk ... call a lazy greeting to my neighbors ... let go of a headache, let the the garden and the fresh air cure me ... eat a meal or sip something to drink, savoring those sensations along with the ones from the garden....

When the garden becomes the frame for these activities, it slows me down, I pay better attention, I feel a deeper appreciation. I have a better view.

© Copyright 2005 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 15 July 2005

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