The following was sent to me by someone with whom I play golf, but also share a great friendship. I know him as Tony, but to his parishioners, he’s Father Dinoto. His uncanny ability to putt has taken many a dollar from my wallet on the golf course, but it’s been worth every penny. Herewith is his musing on his front porch in winter time.
A Front Porch in Winter
A chilling east wind whistles through the lattice at the far end of the front porch on this January afternoon. It is an empty, almost mournful and desolate place these days, the front porch. Reduced to little more than a rarely used passageway from outdoors to the warmth and welcome within, the front porch in winter seems an apt metaphor for life in the meantime. Yet it is, somehow, an expectant and hopeful place at the same time. Somehow, there’s a certain aura of stability and authenticity about a front porch, even at this time of year, chilly gusts notwithstanding. And life goes on in the meantime.
Brittle and browning pine needles littering the battleship gray floorboards are all that remain of the Scotch pine Christmas wreath now dispatched to the compost heap – discarded organic confett of celebrations past.
Two forest greet Adirondack chairs, scuffed and peeling, are pushed to the margins of the porch, empty now, and just in the way. The same two chairs that provided a site for lively conversation and engagement or for sitting at midnight, listening to the nightly symphony of peep frogs. The same two chairs where on any given night during baseball season, good natured debates raged between a Red Sox fan and a neighbor, a fan of the despised Yankees; the same two chairs where all of the problems of the world were solved. But at least there was lively communication and engagement. That’s one of the wonderful things porches enable friends and neighbors to do, to communicate.
Author Thomas Lynch writes: “The easier communications become, the easier it becomes not to to communicate. The more rapidly we travel to the ends of the earth, the more readily we avoid our nearest neighbirs. The more ‘communing’ we do, the more elusive a sense of community seems. We are encouraged to make individual choices, to seek personal savioirs, singular experiences, our own particular truth. We make enemies of strangers and strangers of friends and wonder why we feel alone in the world.”
Porches just by their presence have a way of disarming and diminishing our aloneness and our isolation. Porches in winter rekindle the memory of those relationships sparked, and friendships fed there. The armrests of both Adirondack chairs betray traces of burn marks and ash from boodlegged Cuban cigars shared by a friend. The plumes of smoke, long since dissapated, enveloped those friendly exchanges far into those humid summer nights. The peeling green paint gives a reminder of why I had planned to store those chairs away in the upper shed for winter, but somehow, now I’m glad I procrastinated. I’ll bundle up and steal away out here some winter night, light up a cigar, savor a glass of Merlot and toast summers past and the summer that can’t come too soon.
Although it has yet to snow this winter, two shovels stand at the ready – one a light-as-a-feather number, standing erect in a cobwebbed corner, appearing eager; its counterpart, a rusting antique with a cracked, heavy wooden handle, propped against a window box, a veteran you might say, content to lean.
Even though both implements are reminders that we’re not out of the woods, the bottle of sunblock tipped on its side on the shelf behind them hints at warmer days to come. Did I remember to buy rock salt?
And then there’s the window box, both a sad reminder of those robust geraniums, long since gone to seed and a harbinger of spring flowers yet to bloom with new growth. Dusty puffs of potting soil, crusted and parched and lifeless blow onto the overturned Welcome mat below.
Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates not withstanding, so much of life is like a front porch in Winter: life in the meantime; anticipation, remembrance; hopefulness, regret; forgivness and new beginnings. They are all part of the energy that seems to stir within my spirit, standing in the chill of an east wind on a front porch in winter.
The Rev’d Anthony C. Dinoto +