Sit a Spell. That can Wait.

Since the summer of 2006, we have been a member of the Professional Porch Sitters Union. We’re PPS Local 97451. Our union motto is Sit down a spell. That can wait. We had just built and moved into our country home with a large covered porch facing east towards the view of Siuslaw Valley pastureland, when we heard a report and interview on NPR with Claude Stevens aka Crow Hollister – Sitting on the Porch: Not a Place, But a State of Mind. Here’s an excerpt.

“Porches were a necessity before air conditioning, whether it was the screened sleeping porch or the broad, columned veranda where iced tea — and gossip — were plentiful.

In the mid-1800s, a well-known landscape gardener named Andrew Jackson Downing began writing about his vision of the American home — and how it could stand apart from English architecture. The porch was key.

It functions as an important “transitional space between the private world of the family and the public realm of the street,” notes David Schuyler, author of a biography of Dowling.

But today, many homes don’t have that transitional space, and air-conditioning, television, computers and other enticements draw people inside the home. American porch culture isn’t what it used to be. Claude Stephens is trying to change that.”

I contacted PPSU right away and within a week, our friend Heather painted us this sign, which hangs above the bench under the eaves of our covered porch. After two years of hard work, it was time for JustDucky and Chickadee to rest.

One of the books in my library that  I keep readily available for our B&B guest, friends and family to read while sitting on our porch is Front Porch Tales, as an eclectic mix of music, including Porch Songs and Back Porch Bluegrass, wafts through the tall open windows onto our porch.

It was while sitting on our porch that we visited with guest from all over the world and heard their stories – the olive tree grower and movie producer from California, the land developer and white water guide from Idaho, couples traveling to buy Oregon wines from places as far away as Georgia and Italy… vinters and wine merchants, honeymooners, athletes, U of O alumni, parents and grandparents of U of O graduates, wealthy retirees, an east coast entrepreneur, a bi-plane pilot traveling the circuit, girlfriends having a time-out from their city life and splinting the cost of a room, local couples celebrating their anniversary and business professionals finally getting away for a night or two, cyclists and lovers of the Ashland Shakespearean Festival traveling en route through the back roads of Oregon…. stories, stories, wonderful stories.

It was while sitting on our porch with a guest that I learned the secret of how to get a cork out of a wine bottle. We shake hands when they arrive and hug when they leave; strangers becoming friends. We no longer operate our B&B, but we cherish the memories and enjoy rereading our guest book. Our lives were greatly enriched by theirs. We have enjoyed wine-tasting, gourmet candlelit meals and potluck with friends and neighbors, wreath-making,  reading, doing absolutely nothing, family celebrations, including anticipating the arrival of our granddaughter with a baby shower and serenaded by classical guitarist Craig Einhorn… all while relaxing on our porch. We have enjoyed warm sunny days, pouring rain, snowfall and lightning, the changing seasons, wildlife and wild birds of all kinds, listening to the sounds of nature, prayer, sunrises and star-studded nights on our porch. I love the quote “Life is made of moments; moments as big as years”. Many of those moments have been lived on our porch.

My friends at Flourish just published an excellent article today. Here is an excerpt from  Front Porch Revival: The Past, Present, and Possibility of a Neighborhood Mainstay by Kendra Langdon Juskus.

“As Black History Month, February gives us the opportunity to reflect on defining moments and movements – some shameful, some glorious in our country’s history and culture: the abuse and enslavement of human beings; the Civil Rights movement; the presidential election of Barak Obama; the Civil War; segregation; the Harlem Renaissance; the Tuskegee Airmen; the front porch.

The what? That’s right: the front porch.

To mention the advent of the American front porch alongside illustrious cultural milestones like the Civil Rights Act and jazz music is not to diminish the more familiar achievements of African Americans heralded each February. Quite the opposite, it is the importance of the front porch that has been diminished by the technology- and efficiency-obsessed culture we live in today. There is much in that culture that threatens our fundamental humanity with busyness, anonymity, and industrialization. But there is much about the front porch that is human.” Read the full article.

Other links about porch sitting:

Rusty Pritchard: How front porches encourage loitering (aka “community”)

CBS Evening News: Professional Porch Sitters Unite – Kentucky Man Mobilizes Front-Porch Devotees To “Sit Down A Spell”

Utne Article: The Professional Porch Sitters convene for nothing in particular

American Profile: The Front Porch

Impact Lab: Porch Sitting Required

I Invite you to join other Porch Sitters on Facebook: Professional Porch Sitters Union – Founders Porch

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