There is a particle within that magnetically draws me closer to a screen door.
Perhaps it is the proximity to a porch with rocking
chairs or a swing hanging low or a kitchen where tomatoes sit upside down on
Maybe it is the whirr of an oscillating fan
co-mingled with the night noises of crickets near the banks of the Pearl River
where Susie and I would sleep overnight on Mattie Lou's sleeping porch in
junior high school.
Whatever it is, a screen door beckons. Offering more
than flow-through ventilation, the creak of a screen door with its thin, worn
frame provides entrance to a storehouse of memories in the South.
I do not have a screen door anywhere on my house
today. We have heavy doors, weather stripping, a few clad windows that do not
need painting, all with a goal of insulation from the elements. Modernity has
replaced the screen door with new-and-improved, but something's missing.
Something from the past has been shut out.
Today's busy lives without time or desire to sit a spell and enjoy conversation
amid the steady rocking of a wooden chair or rhythmic ebb and flow of a swing or
aluminum glider are sadly draining our collective cultural memory and depleting
our personal batteries, and we may not even recognize it. I sound like an
old-timer's misty reflection on the good old days.
I have been reflecting on childhood
a bit after my Monticello next door neighbor since 1960 died this week. Nell
and homemade divinity were synonymous. She was much more than the sum of her
Christmas candy--that picture being but a snapshot etched from the memory banks
of the past-- and her passing brought to light dear old sights and sounds. Both
next door neighbors have died this summer, actually, stirring the family pot of
cross-country reminiscing emails and sharing stories across the miles of the
good people who have shared our lives on that plot of ground.
Reminiscing offers the pause that
Telling the stories to another
generation or two who come alongside and widen the circle is a part of these
present good old days, much like we did with grandparents on their front porch in
a glider and rocking chair. How else would we have known about the Preacher and
the Bear or Ezekiel and the dry bones? Or about John Henry, that steel drivin’
man, Lawd Lawd? Or how would we know the thrill of hearing Casey at the
throttle of the Cannonball Express with harmonic whistle sung by Ned Pace even
better than Burl Ives? These are some long songs and stories, I’m telling you.
They take time. And what we had as children back then was time. I don’t ever
remember being over-scheduled.
But that was then, and this is now.
I know much of that porch sitting in
the past was necessary because of the scarcity of air conditioning. Far from
romanticized magnolia evenings in the South, outside was frankly cooler than
inside. The house was a hot box without a screen door.
Today’s screen door may even be reduced
to an accessory now with its form of more value than function. Few sit on a
front porch anymore anyway, with newer homes favoring outdoor living spaces in
what we used to call the back yard.
Still... I’ll take the door and the porch with a
side of lemonade and feed the old memories.
Our present zeal to process and to consume--because we can--keeps driving us
ever more headlong into a place that is much different from childhood for many
of us. That’s not all bad. But the need
to reclaim some essence of available space in our lives for what I can only
call porch-sitting remains. Electronic communication is eclipsing interpersonal
communication at a speed that would melt iced tea.
Today's lifestyle insulates us from ourselves as well as others.
We don't sit well.
Sitting looks like we're doing nothing which is anathema in 2012 where
multitasking rules. Our schedules even crowd out space for thoughtful communion
or meditation. We prevent the very flow-through ventilation our hearts and
souls need to breathe fresh air, spiritually speaking, in our lives so
conditioned to forced air and forceful living.
I do not own a screen door, but all is not lost. We can still make time today
to have a virtual visit to a quiet place, porch or not. We can go there anytime
because God, who is not bound by time or space or weather stripping, meets us
at any place where we may be still and know. God restores my soul and
sets my feet upon a wide path whether we are looking toward the future or
giving thanks for blessings of the past.
Most Holy One, who fills my life with grace, Each
day and night I remember your love In
my lying down and in my rising up In
life and in death You
are my health and my peace. Each
day and each night I
remember your forgiveness Bestowed
on me so gently and generously Each
day and each night May
I be fuller in love to you.