Summer stories by the porch


NEW YORK – When the snow finally skates off the fields in early months of spring, my porch is ready for the swing of the seasons.

The wooden floor is polished to a matte red. The wicker chairs are out in glistening white and the glass table is touched with a vase of dewy flowers overlooking the chartreuse forest of weeping willows, giant tulip poplars, and the sturdy oak.

A bouquet of tulips in a crystal jar is a lovely thing after a battled winter.

During these months of spring and summer solstice, I rarely venture out of this cozy haunt until the cold fingers of winter compel me to retreat inside.

The porch is also my garden where I hang my summer baskets of pink petunias, pots of tea roses and pale pink ranunculus that float gently from their perch on the walls.

The world passes by in a tumult of fury, disappointments and minor victories, while in utter and helpless resignation I simply watch from my little corner, the shy dawn breaking over the dancing tree tops.

It is a silken hour when all is enfolded in gossamer silence, rippled only by bird songs. I catch sight of a single ray of pale sunlight, winking in and out of newly sprung leaves, skittling over a pastel sweep of roses in divine benediction.

A moment quickening with a thousand meanings without the speech.

“How nice that all nights have radiant mornings”, muses the writer, Clarice Lispector.

But in strife or opulence, the ebullient woodpecker chuckles atop the bird house, chasing the cardinal away from its cluster of seeds while the deer saunters in to check what the early morning commotion is all about.

The light circles the deer in a golden halo transforming it into a near mythical creature. And it makes you inquire about the will that seeks to hunt down these timid and luminous creations of the woodlands.

Soon the butterflies sail in, like jaunty little women in frilly petticoats and  shopping bags , giving the blue dragon flies a chase for the nectarine in flower bells.

The morning lies fresh like wild strawberries on grass – “Dreams vague and pale as the violet tinted hyacinths at the river’s edge.”

Sitting on the porch I also hear the scurrying footsteps of the fox towards the diminutive brook fringed with ferns and the loud thump of a ripened fruit on the ground when the winds blow.

But best of all, the porch of this old house becomes an observation deck when Mother Nature unleashes its adolescent fury in an explosion of thunder and lightning.

It is a spectacular show when the rain pours down in huge splashes, and the trees flail their branches in wide protests while the lightning unfolds in mysterious wonder.

On nights like these my husband strums the blues on his antique guitar and in gusts of wind and rain, the honeyed scent of the drift roses and petunia half swivel in and, in the next moment, is gone.

As the seasons progress, days become increasingly incandescent with the sunlight growing stronger as the sun rises high in the skies and the roses drop off the vine one by one.

Then the full glory of summer sets in with the bold hibiscus, the feathery Rose of Sharon, the brilliant lilies and the gallant hydrangea.

On hot summer days when the night sky is deep with stars, lanterns of fire flies make phantom flickers in the looming and forbidding edges of the woods with the moonlight gliding softly over the green swathe.

The bird songs that have diminished noticeably are now replaced with feuds among crickets and insects creating waves of uproar in symphonic harmony.

With a whoop and ballyhoo, deep summer is upon us with weeds and grass, poison ivy and ripened raspberries and the fatigue of mid-summer languor. I feel beaten down by the prickly heat, the overdrive of thorny bushes and the thirst of wilting plants.

Once in a while my neighbor’s black cat will stroll in, look at us with its hazel eyes and then roll over onto the velvety catmint growing by the porch to rub its back.

Occasionally, when the ice cream van draws into the neighborhood, the front porches of the houses become a shared bonhomie of ice-cream sundaes of three different scoops of ice-cream, peanuts, fruits and chocolate dripping over with sounds of kids’ laughter and coins painstakingly collected in the cookie jars.

The hush of the forests, the birds and butterflies steal into the cusp of my soul as I sit on the porch swing from daybreak to sunset with a coffee in hand and cucumber salad greens.

“I longed with all my heart for a fresh green silence between living water and forests,” writes Renee Vivien in similar echoes of kindred feeling.

Soon summer hauls to an end with bright yellow plumage on trees and the burst of plump plums in the mouth. Here and there, dahlias and roses have their second spring before being wrested away by the tight grip of frost and the golden deer becomes the spirit of the autumnal forests in search of its last treasures.

The silent moorings of tall trees bridge the dreams of a tacit companionship with the sun, moon, stars and the flowers.

When the breeze stirs the mop heads of the white hydrangea and the blue- brown butterflies tiptoe for attention, there is no place more beautiful and peaceful in the world for me than this cranky swing in the weathered porch.

Outside the hum of human life goes on in uninterrupted and callous buzz.

(Poppy Mookerjee is a journalist and a writer for more than a decade with American and Indian publications)



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