Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010

Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010
Photo by R.E. Berg-Andersson

Sunday, May 28, 2017

My Corner Office

A good back porch beats a big corner office.
--from a side panel tacked to my wall that was once on a box that held a sixpack of Mike's Hard Lemonade

From my comfortable chair in the corner of my enclosed porch, a chair that should not even be out here but I had no place to put it after we got some new recliners, I can see the bird house next door where a pair of house wrens are now feeding young. Looking the other way, I can see the hummingbird feeder that has so far drawn one bird to feed.

Backporch dining area, with plants (Margo D. Beller)
If I turn my head even further to the right, I can see my wren box where another house wren took over after a pair of black-capped chickadees apparently abandoned their nest. Another female wren put in a few twigs and now the male sings every morning, hunting for food to bring to the box. Since I hear no chatter of young, I am presuming the female is sitting on eggs.

Some early mornings when I sit out here with my first mug of coffee, I can hear both male wrens "battle" each other in song. I watch the catbirds in summer just as I watched the white-throated sparrows in winter, looking for breakfast from the vantage point of atop the flood wall. I watch the flowering plants in succession: forsythia, quince, dogwood, lilacs, the wild rose.

I am out here most mornings, taking advantage of having a more flexible schedule, no longer killing myself to make the train or drive a major highway, enjoying the quiet as other people head to work and school or run or walk their dogs. I enjoy my solitude as MH sleeps upstairs. This enclosed porch was one of the reasons we bought this house almost 25 years ago.

When we bought it, the porch had a roof and was "walled" with floor to ceiling screens. The first winter we lived here a couple of inches of snow blew in. The company that re-sided the house put in kick plates to block the snow, outside carpeting over the bricks and window panels we could raise and lower, making the porch usable in every season, including summer thanks to our fan, except on the coldest of days (although I have been known to sit out here in winter coat, hood up and blanket on my legs).

It is the best of both worlds, outside the main house but not completely exposed to the elements. "This is outside?" a visiting friend once asked. For me, yes. I can be seen or not seen. I can write, as I am doing out here now, or read or get away from MH or the sound of the washer or dryer and, with headphones, avoid the sound of suburban lawn mowers.
Plants, May 2017 (Margo D. Beller)

This is where I store soil, pots and other plant supplies. It is where I put rooted cuttings into small pots or plants into bigger pots. It is from where I put seed into feeders and take them outside in the mornings, then bring in the feeders to protect them from bears every evening until around Memorial Day.

Now the feeders are put away and many of my front room plants can sit out here all summer, getting a shot of sunlight in the early morning and the late afternoon because of the configuration of the house. If there are two things I'd have changed about this porch they would be to have it facing south instead of north (so my plants can stay out here all year long) and cranks to open and close windows instead of my having to lift them with my balky back.

This porch has hosted large cookouts and MH and me eating our ice cream side by side. It has allowed me to sit in my chair and watch an assortment of common and migrant birds eat seed and suet, the ultimate bird blind.

It is my sanctuary from the stresses of everyday life, although not always from insects. Let others enjoy their outdoor patios or their street-facing front porches. There is something to be said for sitting outside in the breeze, and I enjoy it when I take a folding chair outside in the morning shade to better hear the birds. I can even understand the need to sit out in public and wave at passersby.

My mornings. May 2017 (Margo D. Beller)
But from the comfort of my chair here on my enclosed porch, this is all the society I want as I watch the birds, my jungle of houseplants and the trees' green leaves unfold and later turn color. From here the world looks swell.