The porch, a bench in front of the house, these are places of view and rest, places of idle emptiness. At a time when most of us are nearing the end of vacations and summer is coming to an end, we continue to long for such places.
Sitting on the porch is the symbol for having time. It used to be built into daily life, sitting on the ‘porch’, looking back on the events of the day after a days’ work. In our society idleness is a double edged sword. For the active one, it is a legitimate desire, a longing rarely satisfied. For the inactive one, having time threatens to become a stigma. You have to earn your place on the ‘porch’.
After a life’s work do we deserve the ‘porch’? There is loveliness and loneliness connected to it. The two following poems both address this duality at the eve of one’s life. For the architect, designing a space of idleness is a wonderful challenge. It should be part of every house, meaningful in its location, beautiful in its simplicity and thoughtful in its attention to colors, materials and proportions. It should be part of the design for aging and would contribute to ‘being at home with growing old.’
THEY SIT TOGETHER ON THE PORCH” – by Wendell Berry
They sit together on the porch, the dark
Almost fallen, the house behind them dark.
Their supper done with, they have washed and dried
The dishes–only two plates now, two glasses,
Two knives, two forks, two spoons–small work for two.
She sits with her hands folded in her lap,
At rest. He smokes his pipe. They do not speak,
And when they speak at last it is to say
What each one knows the other knows. They have
One mind between them, now, that finally
For all its knowing will not exactly know
Which one goes first through the dark doorway, bidding
Goodnight, and which sits on a while alone.
OLD PEOPLE ON THE NURSING HOME PORCH
Able at last to stop
And recall the days it took
To get them here, they sit
On the porch in rockers
Letting the faded light of
Afternoon carry them off.
I see them moving back and forth
Over the dullness
Of the past, covering ground
They did not know was there,
And ending up with nothing
Save what might have been.
And so they sit
Gazing out between the trees
Until in all that vacant
Wash of sky, the wasted
Vision of each one
Comes down to earth again.
It is too late to travel
Or even find a reason
To make it seem worthwhile.
Already now the evening
Reaches out to take the
Aging world away.