97: Wired for Sound

97: Wired for Sound

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

Wired for Sound

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

~John Muir

Porches have always been my favorite part of any house. Lofty front porches shaded by massive ferns. Back porches where chest freezers hum and dance, and string mops are hung to dry. Wraparound porches crowded with rocking chairs and potted geraniums.

But the best porch of all is a screened porch. Whether on the front, back, or side of a house, all it takes is a roof, some fine-gauge mesh and a slamming door to create the most popular room in any home.

My family just added a screened porch to our 1840s farmhouse, and we are already wondering how we ever got along without it. It’s on the east side of the house, positioned just right to catch the morning sun while enjoying a wake-up cup of coffee. Shaded by a giant maple tree that’s reputed to be even older than the house, the porch is impenetrable even to high-noon summer heat.

A six-foot-long, don’t-make-me-ever-get-up-swing hangs at one end. In the middle is a big round table, which — when it’s not being used for a meal — usually has a game of Monopoly or Chinese checkers going on. The porch is filled with the intoxicating aroma of honeysuckle and wild roses and, at dusk, with the smell of supper sizzling on the grill.

Conceding to the twenty-first century, the porch has electricity that powers two big white ceiling fans and the reading lamps that flank the swing. Not long after the porch was built, a friend stopped by to visit. He was thrilled to learn that the porch was electrified. “You should buy a little flat screen TV and set it up there in the corner,” he said. “And get some stereo speakers and wire the porch for sound.”

Wire it for sound?

I just looked at him and laughed.

Would there be any point explaining to him that the finest stereo system in the world couldn’t compare to what I hear every evening on that porch as I sway in the big swing, iced tea in hand and a magazine lying unopened on my lap?

The swing’s heavy metal chains creak steadily against giant eye-bolts and the ceiling fan paddles whir softly as they stir the night air. Hard-backed beetles, wanting to share my lamplight, slam against the screen. Across the road, a neighbor’s cow lows deep and plaintive, the unmistakable sound of imminent calving. The herd answers and the pasture is suddenly alive with noise. Canada geese honk and circle, trying to decide which of the many ponds in our valley would make the best overnight motel.

The screen door bangs as my son rushes in to find a jar for lightning bugs. The dog, who doesn’t understand screens at all, scratches and whines to be let in. As the last smidgen of daylight disappears, birds bid each other goodnight. All around us, frogs and crickets and katydids join in a symphony that must surely be so harmonious because it’s been rehearsed just this way for countless centuries.

So I smile and tell my friend no, we really don’t need a flat screen TV or a fine stereo system for our screened porch. It’s already wired for sound.

~Jennie Ivey

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