One thing that marks a home as really "Appalachian" is a decent porch. In lots of states --even southern ones like Louisiana-- people have "stoops," a square yard of concrete on top of a few steps. a place to stand while getting a door open. What they call a porch in the northern Tundra states is most often glassed in against fierce winters, and in the corner there's probably a gas heater.
That ain't a porch.
That's a spare room.
My wife and I have a world class front porch. It runs the full length of the house, and is wide enough to stretch our legs while sitting in comfortable furniture. We keep enough chairs on the front porch that we've usually got plenty for company. If the chairs are all filled, a sturdy railing one great uncle built before I was born makes a fine seat.
Sixty years ago my grandfather owned this house, and improbable as it sounds, three pieces of furniture --a steel glider and two wooden rocking chairs-- have been on the porch since he sat on them of an evening, for the same reasons Sparky and I do today.
We watch hummingbirds on an everlasting sugar-water binge, buzzing red feeders. The males are territorial, and one, determined to "own" the feeder over the front steps, earned the name "Goliath." He's got the heart, if not the stature of a giant. Goliath ain't scared of much in his world, not even house cats glaring at graceful swoops and soaring turns performed an inch or two beyond their reach.
There's another feeder on a pole in the yard, full of birdseed, and the avian wonders who come to mooch free meals are a better show than anything on television. I wonder why people think of blue jays as being selfish and mean? Watch them from a porch and you'll see they're more likely to share space than most other species. Now and then an uncommon bird shows up, like the flicker that came around for a while. That's when Sparky and I fetch out the Audubon book to learn something about birds we don't see every day.
A goat lives on the hill north of us, and the front porch is the best place to observe this beast whose successful escape from someone's farm happened at least fifteen years ago. He grazes his hill, facing our porch, two or three days a week, and if he's lonely up there --he's the last survivor of the half dozen goats we used to see-- you can't tell from the way he confidently strolls an incline no human could walk across without ropes to hang onto.
My morning routine includes taking the day's first coffee onto the front porch, and if I'm luck Sparky comes with me. Rocking slowly in the glider that's been part of my life all of my life, we watch the world go by on US 60. The highway's near enough to see the traffic, distant enough the noise of the loudest semi doesn't stall conversation.
A question for which I'll never find an answer is "Where are all those people going in such a hurry?" 60's a serpentine twister of a highway, and I can't imagine an errand so urgent --except maybe a life-or-death race to the hospital-- that would require the speed we see every day on that road.
When we had cable TV in the house, Sparky and I went whole days without talking much. The cable's gone now, and no matter what our personal day has been, sooner or later we meet on the porch, where conversation's easier. That's where Sparky and I talk. . . . Whether we're watching birds or rain, or sitting in the dense calm of a heavy late evening fog, we talk to each other.
There's a chance you got a front porch at your house.
How well are you using it, lately?
Have you gone out there, settled into the quiet of a balmy evening, and really talked to the person you love, who shares your life and your home?
If you haven't, you ought to.
That's what a front porch is really for, y'know.