"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Front porch swing memories

"Porch Swing Afternoon," 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb. cold press paper
"Come sit and visit a spell," said the neighbors long ago, smiling from their front porch swing.
Remember front porches and swings? I hope you do.
They've been scarce in my life because there weren't many in New Mexico when growing up, but they're symbols of good times, of slower times, of simpler times when we spent summers visiting kin folk in Comanche, Oklahoma and East Texas, of an old house in Waurika, Oklahoma.
Thinking about them, they bring memories of an un-airconditioned world--the slam of a screen door, of  sweet tea, of fireflies in the cooling evening, of adults sitting in the swing, of wasps buzzing around, of kids playing on the porch. I have specific memories of sitting on a porch swing in East Texas, talking to a summer girlfriend, as the soft rain poured down.
They were also places for just thinking, or resting, of enjoying the scenery and waving at people in the neighborhood. They were also for comfort, for  talking about and solving problems, as seen in the iconic movie To Kill a Mockingbird, as Atticus comforted Scout.
There's the poem by Sam Walter Foss that must have a front porch swing in spirit, "Let me live in a house by the side of the road. And be a friend to man...."
As adults, you'd treasure sitting on the front porch swing in the morning with coffee, reading a newspaper, enjoying the day with the dew still on the grass, or as a youngster spending a lazy, un-organized  summer day, reading a book of adventure and imagination, like Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes
They're not just rural or Southern either. I've seen blue collar mill towns in Pennsylvania where every frame house had a front porch, where the hard-working laborers could come home after a long day, sit on the porch with a beer perhaps, and talk to nearby neighbors
What happened to them?
First I think, was air conditioning and television, that forced and enabled us to staying indoors to be cool, and shut us off from others in a cocoon.
Then new houses were built without front porches. Instead, we've retreated to back patios and porches with lawn chairs and fire pits in fenced yards, isolated from our no longer "neighbor"hoods.
Ray Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451 foresaw deeper effects: 
“No front porches. My uncle says there used to be front porches. And people sat there sometimes at night, talking when they wanted to talk, rocking, and not talking when they didn't want to talk. Sometimes they just sat there and thought about things, turned things over. So they ran off with the porches."
It's refreshing to me that in this pandemic, I see more people walking in the neighborhood, stopping to chat a little, hungry to talk, even with "social" distancing (talk about an oxymoron). Given our isolating digital, online, "smart"phone work-world and lives, porches seem more important than ever. 
Just this week our across the street neighbors put up a front yard swing between trees. Yes, people stop and talk.
I found this pertinent saying: "The swing on your porch is a better liver of life than the chair in front of your desk."  --Terri Guillemets
I'd been thinking about today's watercolor for a while, even before the neighbors put up their swing between two trees, but they helped me. It took a few attempts, but here it is...nice and simple, like a front porch swing.


  1. Our house in Price, Utah was an old one with a huge front porch. The parents had martini time there and there was lots of interaction with the neighbors. Lots more walking in the neighborhood here in Tulsa now and talking at a distance.


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