NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, April 14th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. What used to be a mainstay in homes is no longer; but WORLD commentator Kim Henderson says it’s also a state of mind.
KIM HENDERSON, COMMENTATOR: As far as self-isolation goes, I’m convinced there’s no better place to practice it than a front porch in springtime. The few I frequent have had more use in the past couple of weeks than all four seasons combined.
With proper spacing, a porch has allowed me to stay connected to my 88-year-old parents. They sit in rockers at one end, while I swing down at the other.
But sometimes when I’m making meal drops on their porch, my dad forgets. He wants to hustle me and their lasagna through the front door before moths circling the porch light kamikaze into their den. Instead, we do a 6-step distance dance, with Mom standing in the shadows, making jokes about “breaking out of this joint.”
On sunny afternoons, I bring them news from the world beyond. Then we FaceTime relatives whose loudest attempts cannot compensate for failing hearing aids. Dad sips his sweet tea. Mom points out her blooming calla lily. It’s almost like a scene from Mayberry.
And maybe it is a scene, because we prune the porch’s borders and sweep its stage. Pair the rockers. Water the ferns. Paint the swing and plump its pillows.
Ah, the front porch.
My own looks out on a stand of pines and a gravel driveway that’s seen its share of tail lights go their own way. We’ve watched an eclipse from under the eaves and a shooting star or two. One dry June, I made myself stop being Martha long enough to wonder over a gutter gushing with thunderstorms.
Last week I found my husband on the front porch rocking and sipping coffee. He was wearing Saturday morning on his face, relaxed to the core.
“Just missed it,” he said.
“It?” I asked.
Seems he’d been watching a gray fox dig at something in the ground. Just watching. Enjoying.
Urban sprawl means most folks don’t see gray foxes from their porches. They don’t even have porches. A couple of years ago, I interviewed a lady who gained Instagram insta-fame by posting photos of her front porch swing. It was a beauty made from an antique door and hung by 3-inch thick ropes. Almost overnight, she landed 100,000 followers. Fans from Italy to Brazil still ask questions about the swing, and she told me they’re fascinated by her porch.
Housing developments these days are more likely to feature homes with garages than porches. Even when a porch does come along with a mortgage, the climate-controlled, TV-centric family room is a hard competitor. Finding the porch has to be an intentional act.
But this is an unprecedented moment in history we’re living through. Now more than ever, a porch is something besides a covered entry. It’s a safe-distance connection to the world.
The thing is, you don’t even have to possess one to have a porch state of mind. Just pull out some lawn chairs. Wave to the mailman. Call out to your neighbor.
Come sit a spell.
I’m Kim Henderson.