Ahhh… What comes to mind when I think of Southern porches is a great, big…exhale. Porches in the South are magical; they are where people go to breathe—to let go their troubles by swinging in a porch swing or rocking in a rocker. One can rock and swing and release the troubles of the day. Porches are where people watch the world pass by on the street—to warm up…or to cool down. Passersby might seem to be in a hurry, but people on a porch are there to…rest…and watch…and release.
Southern porches are extensions of Southern homes. Most have a few necessary (and sometimes unnecessary) items on them, like chairs, tables, lamps, plants, rugs, wreaths, decorations and more. They can be of the hoity-toity variety with fancy pillows and trays of fine silver serving pieces…or of the…less refined variety that one can sometimes find in rural areas of the South, replete with old benches, grills and coolers that are filled with beer. No matter the decorating nuances, the same thing happens on most Southern porches. Life there is spent relaxed and easy. It is spent entertaining family and friends. And most times, you can find a few glasses of sweet iced tea, lemonade or—as I sometimes prefer with my girlfriends—wine. Sipping a beverage on an old porch is a Southern rite of passage, an act of friendship, and a way of telling those who visit, “You are welcome!”
My own introduction to the graces and hospitality of Southern porches happened at my grandparents’ home. The porch was where my grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends hung out and talked and caught up. As a child, I played in the yard under the protection of the adults rocking and watching over me. The porch was almost a symbol of security. If I became frightened of anything, it was to where I ran. The rails were like arms that surrounded me and kept out the dangers of the yard…and the world.
It was on an old front porch that I learned the art of storytelling. My grandfather spent enormous amounts of time, telling me tales—sometimes the same ones over and over. It was from him that I learned the ebb and flow of stories, the way to hook the listener (or reader). And now that I am an author, front porches figure prominently in my novels—as settings and as symbols.
If you haven’t relaxed on a Southern porch in a while (or ever…if you are of the Northern variety), do yourself a favor and find someone who would be happy to host you for a few hours on their front porch. Sit a spell and watch the world and your worries pass you by and experience some Southern magic.
Happy rocking, y’all!