OPINION: Life in a nutshell: View from the porch

Sitting astride a ridge that once bore a stagecoach road, the homeplace with its west-facing front porch is a delightful site to ponder one’s place in the world, with a view of yard, barn, pastures and groves.
Granddaddy was a man whose wisdom interpreted the job of a husband and father foremost as providing the necessities for his family. He planted pecan trees north of the driveway as both food and another of the several small sources of income that paid the household’s modest bills.
The trees never produced as well as those in deep Delta soil, but they served their purposes throughout his life. The year he died, the grove offered its best crop ever, as though in tribute to its founder.
Opposite the grove, Grandmama planted and tended daffodils and narcissi, daylilies and crepe myrtles.
With a wisdom that complemented Granddaddy’s utter practicality, she knew that something beautiful to look at was as vital to the soul as something good to eat was to the body.
The porch was a shelter from weather, and the wisteria trellised in front of it offered just enough privacy for comfort, but Granddaddy and Grandmama did not live a reclusive life.
At the end of the driveway was a mailbox, through which passed an exchange of letters with friends and relatives, the Mobile Register (Grandmama grew up in South Alabama) and the Sears-Roebuck catalog and the occasional orders there from.
The driveway also connected with a dirt road – sometimes dust, sometimes mud – that would start one on one’s way, as the old saying goes, to anywhere. During the Depression it mainly directed them to church, to neighbors’ places or a few times a year to Pickens or Canton.
When World War II hit home, it started one son on his way to the Battle of the Bulge, a second to Okinawa and another to service that, blessedly, didn’t include battle.
It also sent their daughters to live and learn and love in such metropolises as St. Louis and Los Angeles – and Osyka. Along with friends and far-flung kinsmen, that road also brought those children safely home again.
It’s a rare thing that I have the chance to sit on that particular front porch anymore, but it and its environs still symbolize most of what makes life good – sustenance and inspiration, seclusion and connection, and the chance to relax from and reflect on productive work.
Contact Daily Journal reporter Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com. Read his blog at NEMS 360.

Errol Castens

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