Screen Porch, Five Years Old and Still A Magic Space

Six months after leaving my job as president of the Greater East End District, I began to do things I'd very much wanted to do, but for which I had no extra time or energy with 60+ hour work weeks. Within a year of my 'retirement', I made, at long last, a studio space of the garage. For years, I worked intermittently on a bedroom floor, treading carefully among half-finished collages, adding and gluing bits and pieces of images and fabric, weighting the images under heavy books and finally, painting hand made frames. I'd had no real studio space since the mid-1980s, when I rented a small apartment and used the bedroom as a darkroom.
But in 2008, the garage makeover gave me a 'room of my own' for the second time. And with the studio came an unexpectedly magical screen porch, which is the real topic here. The original garage happened to have an adjoining concrete slab covered by a corrugated aluminum room. Rustic and very 1950s, at best.
It made sense to cover the slab with a real roof and then screen in the space. I had no idea a screen porch could be life changing, but it was and is.
After construction was complete and a ceiling fan in motion, I sat on this new screen porch for the first time and that's when the magic began. I looked through the screen at the branch of a tree and saw a small grey owl perched, looking straight at me. She/he stayed on that branch all day, unmoving, quiet, wide-eyed. I googled owls and discovered they symbolize good luck, well being. I took the presence of that small grey owl as a very good sign. The porch was suffused with a happy energy.
Early evening on the screen porch, July 2014.
I began to invite people to sit on my porch and during that first summer, each visit was magical, both for me and my guests. One of my daughter's professors at UC Santa Cruz passed through Houston on her way from a conference and we spent an evening on the porch, listening to cicadas, talking about her almost published new book. We both felt the heightened energy of this space. She declared she would build such a porch at her home in Arkansas. Two brothers, recent newcomers from Nicaragua, came to sit on the screen porch. Something about our conversation inspired me to find and read aloud to them from my high school volume of Emerson's essays and Thoreau's Walden Pond. I read Emerson's 'Self Reliance' and the Conclusion of Walden Pond.  By the time we'd soaked in the substance of what I'd read, all three of us felt in an altered state. The older of the two brothers said, "Now I have the words to say what I feel inside." The screen porch inspires.
It's July now, and hot. And I seem to be spending more and more time on my screen porch. Even with the heat, it is not uncomfortable. The fan moves air and that table and chairs I found at The Guild Shop serve both as writing desk and supper table. At this moment, the table holds a tableau of leaves and moss, gathered on morning walks. My friend Sally told me that I am the only friend she has who picks up and saves fallen branches, vines and seed pods.
A few evenings ago, Earl and I sat on the screen porch with glasses of wine. Gentle conversation. No leaf blowers, just the setting sun and peach colored western sky. The screen porch encloses and yet is wide open. This screen porch of mine retains its magic.
Portrait on the porch.



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