7: The Art of Porching

7: The Art of Porching

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom's Survival Guide

The Art of Porching

We benefit from doing nothing, from going out to play, from giving from the heart and spending time in nature.

~Jo Ann Davis

When I was a small child, I noticed how much time my grandmother would spend on the front porch of our North Bay, Ontario home late in the afternoons. I used to wonder what she thought about as she sat in her lawn chair, gazing at the highway that ran through our town. Naturally, I assumed she was counting cars. In fact, one day I joined her on our porch and came right out and asked her: “Granny, are you counting the cars?” She gave me a little smile before answering, “Yes, I am.”

I’ve often thought about my grandmother during moments of reprieve from the frantic cadence of my life’s various activities. “How the heck did she do it back then?” I muse while driving to work, driving home from work, sifting through loads of laundry to find the missing pink sock, buying groceries, making appearances at school functions, and ferrying children to karate and gymnastics classes. When I compare the shape of our lives, I am embarrassed to admit that on most days I feel more than a little overwhelmed. I’m raising two children; she raised six. I have a home filled with all the modern conveniences; she had a wood stove and no hot water. I have a vehicle at my disposal; she did not. And when I complain about having to empty the washing machine for the third time in the same day, I think about her doing laundry for eight people with a washboard and a bar of soap.

When I put it on paper, it’s plain to see that in the game of hardships, there is no contest: Lucy: 0, Granny: 1,000,000. So why does it feel like my life is so damn difficult all the time?

Though it is true that women today in the developed world enjoy freedom of choice far more than at any other time in history, I feel that many of these choices have also enslaved us to a life of overextension, exhaustion and, in some cases, much unhappiness. Just because we live in a time when we can do everything, it doesn’t necessarily mean we should.

As I have learned during those times when I have backed away from some of my out-of-home responsibilities, there is a lot to be said for living life in its simpler form. And while I don’t mean to insinuate that women should be abandoning their careers by the masses, or tossing their chili-pepper-red front-loading washing machines by the wayside, I do encourage any and all women who, like me, are many things to many people, to take inventory of all the places in which you expend your precious energy, and how (not to mention how often) you make the time to replenish your limited reserves.

I recently finished reading Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, a highly acclaimed author of the twentieth century (not to mention the first female glider pilot in the U.S.) whose accomplishments often bloomed in the shadows of her husband’s notoriety. In one particularly resonant chapter of her book, she speaks of the insidious breakdown of the female spirit due to overwork. Keep in mind, this book was written back in the fifties. Since then, we’ve evolved five-plus decades worth of other ways in which to overex-tend ourselves. She paints an interesting portrait of the exhausted spirit by cautioning readers against attempting to water a field with the reserves of one pitcher.

I, Lucy Lemay Cellucci, being of sound(ish) mind and body, mother of two, wife of one, teacher, writer, trapeze artist (only on my downtime), citizen, and barista, plead guilty to first-degree, premeditated pitcher-depletion. I hereby accept my sentence — ninety days of porching.

On my porch there are no plot arcs to craft. There are no lessons to plan. There are no customers to be served. There are no walls to be painted. There are no children needing my immediate attention. (They’re actually just on the other side of the door, draining what little sanity is left in their father. And, yes, I admit, I’m not above taking pleasure in that fact.) There are no sticker-reward charts to update. There is no laundry to be folded, no meals to be prepared, no tidying to be done.

There is just me, sitting on my Adirondack chair, cup of tea in hand, surrounded by the flowers and shrubs in my garden. There is the sound of birds chirping nearby and the warm glow of the sleepy pre-dusk sun peeking out between the branches of the trees as it slowly begins its descent behind the houses.

For one hour each evening, I sit on my porch, taking refuge on a concrete life raft. Beneath its shelter I am offered amnesty from the irreverent pace at which I have lived my life during the last five years. Here I am connected to that part of me that actually has the ability to sit quietly and be still. Here I am not compelled to fill the silence with jokes, wisecracks, and other inessential chatter. Here I am simply living in the present moment, experiencing the joy of sitting on a porch with a cup of chamomile tea on a lovely summer evening.

How grateful I am for this opportunity to temporarily detour out of the race of life and replenish my poor, long-emptied pitcher. I’m more thankful yet that this much-needed respite has happened during the summer months. Somehow I don’t think my evenings spent on the porch would have been so comforting during the middle of January. There’s only so much relaxation one can soak in from behind a snowsuit and balaclava, after all.

Occasionally, my son pokes his head out the door to observe my uncharacteristic inactivity.

“Mommy, are you looking at the sewers?” he asked me one night.

I looked up at him and smiled before I replied, “Yes, I am.”

~Lucy Lemay Cellucci

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