Saturday, November 1, 2014

THE HEALING PORCH

Porches, large and small, are healing places. I have been an advocate of their use for many years, and this year Janet Faulk-Gonzales and I published a book about the virtues of these places in a book entitled Porch Posts: Memoirs of Porch Sitters.

Recently, I was called home to New Iberia from my spring/summer stay in Sewanee, Tennessee because my daughter Stephanie had to undergo serious surgery. Following her discharge, I returned to Tennessee but was called back to Louisiana because she wasn't recovering well. The past two weeks have been tense ones, but Stephanie continues to improve daily. During the worst of part of her recovery, I retreated to the glass porch on one side of my home and sat, sunning and meditating  "in the passive life that goes on in the porch world," as I wrote in Porch Posts, and I felt myself recovering enough moxy to deal with the problem of my daughter's illness. I also re-read several essays from Porch Posts and decided to share one that I wrote regarding the glass porch that both Janet and I call "the healing porch." The essay is entitled "The Place of Oaxaca Breakfasts:"

"Of all the porches I've enjoyed, the sun porch in my New Iberia, Louisiana home ranks first among favorites. It's a diminutive glass and aluminum structure adjoining the dining room and has been, variously, a breakfast room, a writing room, and a sitting room. Seasonally, a bed of pansies or marigolds, bordered by giant elephant ears, grows alongside it, and at one time a vigorous sago palm dominated the flower bed before we cut it down because it was beginning to overtake the house.

"The New Iberia sun porch is a three-season porch, unused in summer because the Louisiana heat makes it uninhabitable. Even with an air conditioning vent that allows a small gust of cool air to enter and a ceiling fan whirling overhead, it becomes a steam bath from May - early October. However, it's a curative salon and is often used to heal physical and emotional ills like seasonal affective disorder, insomnia, winter colds, and arthritic pains. We diurnal creatures crave Apollo's bright face, and the glass porch allows salutary rays to beam through on most days when my friends and I are porch sitting.

"The porch has been a place of friendship and shared meals, especially "Oaxaca breakfasts," a name given to hours of intimate conversations, literary discussions, and the heightened consciousness that two friends and I felt when visiting Oaxaca, Mexico several years ago. As C.S. Lewis once wrote about friendship, the porch has the ambience of a "luminous, tranquil...world," a place where friends "see the same truth" while conversing, arguing, and amusing each other. It's a site where equals meet and sit side by side, absorbed in mutual interests.

"As a healing spot, the porch has also been a haven for friends who faced the grief of divorce, broken relationships, and family deaths. Like its transparent glass walls, it suggests the fragility of emotional crises.

"One spring, my son-in-law Brad painted the wrought iron trim of a glass-topped table and matching chairs on the porch a brilliant yellow hue, an evocative color that suggested happiness was always nearby for those who come to sit and talk about their problems. When I had to give up the table and chairs to furnish an apartment next door, my daughter Stephanie replaced the dining set with a comfortable lounging chair. The chair she and Brad brought in as a Christmas gift has soft gold cushions, and I believe she chose this color reminiscent of the sun because she knew I wanted to keep the aura of joy that surrounds this favored space."


If you enjoyed this essay, there are other "healing spaces" mentioned in Porch Posts that may give you some insights into the restorative powers of porch sitting. Porch Posts is available online at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.
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