ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DALE SUDERMAN
My little deck is finished. The second-story urban sanctuary is a new space added to my apartment, albeit, a room with no walls or ceiling but still a welcome addition.
I intend to spend the rest of my summer there-drinking coffee and entertaining visitors. I have planted a few flowers plus corn and sunflowers in the flowerboxes.
Instead of fireflies, I have the twinkle of planes from O’Hare airport in the northern skies. Squirrels do acrobatics on electric lines over the alley and the sounds of pigeons, crows and the occasional mourning dove provide entertainment.
Almost as soon as folks learned to live under a roof inside houses they started wanting a little attached outdoor space. The Greeks built “stoa” colonnaded porches around temples and large public buildings.
The Greek philosopher Zeno developed a philosophy called Stoicism-a policy of just accepting life-from his years of sitting on the stoa (or front porch) in the third century B.C.
The front entrance of the Tabor College administration building is a budget version of a stoa. I do not know if they teach Stoicism there.
Old Kansas farm houses had porches. The front porch often had a porch swing. This was a place to get some air and greet guests.
The fancy version of a front porch was the screen porch-with screens to protect one from flies and mosquitoes. A screen porch could easily be upgraded with glass windows and evolve into a sunroom for growing plants in all seasons.
Add a bit of pretense and a sunroom can be called the conservatory-just as a porch with a touch of the pretentious can become a veranda.
The back porch was far more utilitarian. In my childhood home, the back porch had the cream separator for getting milk and cream from our few milk cows, plus huge egg buckets and egg baskets for preparing eggs to take to Vogt Brother’s grocery store to exchange for groceries. I think there was also a wringer washing machine.
These back porches became utility rooms and mudrooms in architectural drawings. Or they became the private outdoor space for a family
City folks had stoops-a flight of steps leading to a small landing in the front of a house or apartment complex. Space-conscious Dutch folks originally built these.
In a single family home the parents and grandparents sat on top and the kids played on the steps in descending order. On hot summer nights, the entire neighborhood was in shouting distance of each other.
A rumor of police brutality could spread for blocks among front stoop people-sometimes setting off urban fights and even riots.
Air-conditioning has changed everything. Folks who spent a lifetime working outside-fighting sunburn, heat stroke and flies-now retire to climate-controlled rooms and watch television. They worked outside and rest inside the house.
Now folks work inside and rest outside the house. And new Kansas homes again have porches in front and decks in the back of the house.
A relative of mine with roots in Oklahoma and a keen eye for culture taught me the importance of “porch sitting.” The challenge is plopping down in a comfortable chair in the morning on a front porch with a glass of ice tea in such a way that only a minimum number of moves of the chair are required to stay in the shade until sunset.
I have a deck now. By my current calculations, three moves of the chair are required to stay in the shade from sunrise to sunset. But with practice and the application of Stoic principles, I hope I can reduce it to two moves.
You can contact the author at Suderman@aol.com.