Something sacred about sitting on the porch

by DRM

This summer has a pattern and a habit that winds through it: coming down to the kitchen in the early morning, the only one awake in the house; sliding the latch on Bella and Charlie’s crate; Bella skittering behind me in a hurry and then righting herself when I open the door off the kitchen while Charlie sniffs his way over to the garbage, on the far side of the island, and I have to whistle him over; making the first cup of coffee, deciding where to sit, assessing the feel of the air, while the coffee system heats up and goes into its rinse cycle; getting the notebook and the computer, the coffee, and walking out to the porch; the first sips looking out over the back yard; the muted sound of the highway in the distance.

The difference with this pattern is that I am home. The routine ebbs and flows with the seasons. Now, in the full throttle of summer, the grass is thick, the garden wild, the sea grasses by the pool tall and plump, the trees rich with leaves. The fall air hasn’t moved in yet. Everything alive in the yard is still filled with lazy potential, a little dazed from the full rush of Spring.

In other summers, we’ve turned into squatters, gone to a new place lock, stock and barrel, to create a whole new routine. The effect has been disruptive. This has been our easiest summer, I tell T. We’ve just stayed home and the routines that help to anchor us are easing us into ritual.

That goes to the sacredness of this place. If sacred is part of ritual actions, and grows from shedding self-awareness  for the unthinking rhythm of routine, surrounded by totems and symbols that signal the elevation of spirit and the subsuming of the self in witness of a greater force, then Sunset Farm has something of the Sacred in it.

This house has sat here for a long time, and generations of lives have passed here. When my grandmother lived in Greenwich nearly 100 years ago, she could have come to this house and sat on a stone patio approximately where I am sitting.

She would have seen farther: the trees were not so full and the fields were open for farming for miles. The perspective from this seat would have been of a long stretch of work and potential from the land. The lower yard would have been open all along the shore of the pond. Wherever she looked, she would have seen signs of industriousness, things that would take time and energy to complete.

The land has changed since then. From the porch, the perspective is foreshortened by the tall trees that form a semi-circle around the back of the house, flanking the wood fence on the left, the stone wall at the bottom and Nichols Road on the right, enclosing an acre of grassy lawn. The horizon is close. It spills over the uniform tree tops. The sky is framed, cut off at the top by the bead-board edge of the porch ceiling.

Growth and season is the subject that changes in this frame. Contained in it, so that the things that do change are constant elements, the perspective from this seat is the same every day. To find the change, you have to look. You have to come out of yourself and sink into the picture, register what is new and altered in an incremental, but significant way.

This is the conflict of worship, the push-pull between the escape of the self and the engagement with the world outside you, the expressions of faith, the ultimate moments of epiphany that change how you see things, and the distracting chatter of your internal self, its urgent, fevered voice of wishes, wonders and concerns.

Euland admonishes: Look at the details. A painter paints the same tableau over and over not get to the picture right, but to understand it better, to show it in each different moment, to share every experience.

This morning I notice that the chestnut tree is heavy with fruit and that the light at 7 a.m. is cutting over the top of the house and illuminating the left side of the yard, cutting it in two — a soft summer haze of blues and yellows and greens contrasted with the muted dusk of the early morning of blacks, greys and greens.

The fruit of the tree is potent, apple-sized balls with piercingly sharp thorns.

I am not wearing my hearing aids. I’m largely embraced by Silence. The birds must be singing. Just now a jet roared overhead. It flew low to the house, going in to land at Westchester Airport. The path and altitude is unusual: the planes typically approach along the horizon. At night we can see the lights of approaching planes flash in the distance from our bedroom window. They trace a line above the inky black of the treetops.

These are the patterns of ritual, these details, and I believe they give us access to what is sacred in our life, if we can experience them over and over but remain aware.