Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wednesday's Words for October 8, 2008

I realized just today that we’re almost at the end of porch weather here in Southern Ontario. Sadly, I’ve not taken advantage of my front porch as often this summer as I have in years past. That’s one of the bi-products of being so busy. But I have sat out on it a few times, and each time I do, I feel a sense of tradition. This is something I’ve enjoyed in every house I’ve ever lived in.

This porch is cement, wood covered, and decorated with wrought iron railing about waist high. It’s a good sized one, big enough to hold two chairs with a small table in between on one side of the front door, and a love-seat sized wicker chair on the other. The steps leading up to it—eight in all—come right up from the sidewalk. There’s not much of a front lawn here, and what there is, slopes up. There is a fairly deep back yard, and it too slopes—up away from the house, at such an angle that, if you walk it, you find yourself standing above the house. Literally. I do have a clothes line, as some of you may know. But I need to use my cane to get up to it.

This porch is a good one in that it meets my husband’s number one criteria for porches: he is able to sit on his chair and comfortably reach the railing with his feet. I like it because the view from it, that of our street, is pretty. There are plenty of trees, both green and red maples, some pine trees, and some decorative ones. It’s not a busy road, either, but a quiet street where the neighbourhood cats are in control, often forming a gauntlet from one end to the other, challenging vehicles to wait as each of them—in turn and at their own pace—gets out of the way.

There’s a walnut tree on the right hand side of our porch, as you’re looking out toward the road. This tree, when we first moved here in 1989, was a heck of a lot smaller than it is today. My husband thinks we need to see about having a few branches removed, as they’re beginning to hang over the roof. We both believe the tree’s speedy growth, over the last nineteen years, has had as much to do with our presence on the porch as with nature: the tree, we’re convinced, believes our conversations with each other over the years have actually been conversations with it.

We like sit out on our covered porch to read on a quiet Sunday afternoon, and we like to sit out and enjoy thunderstorms. Those times are best, of course, when the rain comes straight down in torrential sheets, without the wind whipping it about so that we remain dry. As we spend time together sitting on our porch, we’re often engaged in conversations that run the gamut from space exploration to corporate responsibility, from music to cars to world politics and natural phenomena. We’ve been married more than thirty-six years, and so far we haven’t run out of conversational topics.

Sitting in one corner on my porch there is what, on first impression, would appear to be an unusual rock. It’s cubical with a slightly rounded top, and has a round hole of about six inches in diameter in the center of it. This rock is not a creation of some ancient geophysical force, but rather of a more recent human one.

Years ago, when my parents moved us across the field to the larger house next door that they had purchased, one of the first things my father did was take down the green wire fencing that enclosed the front yard. I think his view was that as this was a simple rural house, there was no need for a “city-like” fence. All went well until he tried to dig out one corner post. His shovel hit rock – or so he thought it to be. He had do dig out and around and down before he finally discovered that what his spade had hit was in fact the ‘rock’ that was formed by the cement that had been poured to keep the fence post anchored in the ground. It was such a smooth and strange looking rock that he decided to leave it, on top of the grass, and actually it formed the corner of a triangular shaped garden that he put in, roughly where the rock had been buried. If my father was anything like me—and I have it on good authority that my sense of humor matches his—he also kept it because digging it out had been such bloody hard work.

The hole in the center is just the right size for a six inch flower pot, and this purpose the rock has served from time to time through the years. After my mother died, my husband and I moved into the house that my parents had bought, and thus we became custodians of the rock. When approximately ten years later we moved from that house to another neighbourhood, I decided to bring the rock with me, and I’ve had it ever since.

I do that. I cling to things that are perhaps odd things to have and are of no real value, but that stand as visceral touchstones—reminders, if you will—of times past and their connection to the present and the future. I need my few symbols, those things that no matter what, endure.

The older I get, the faster life moves, the more so much around me changes…the more cherished these symbols become.

Romance…with that extra bit of heat.

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