This porch. I’m not sure I’ve ever loved and not-loved a thing so much in my life. I was going to write hate, but that is probably not the right word, and one that I try not to use, but man I’ve got big feelings for this porch. The love is obvious, just look at it. My mother thinks they built it at least a foot too narrow, but I’ll tell you what, at only five feet deep you can sit on one of those chairs and prop your feet up on the railing no problem, so maybe they actually got the depth just right. My father would retreat here after a long day of hauling his old International pick-up in and out of the woods, pulling logs, splitting wood. Sometimes there would be a couple of Black Labels tucked by his side.
It’s easy to sit here on an early summer morning and solve the problems of the world. You don't even have to try, it just happens. Do you find certain places to be like that? Evoking a kind of logic and understanding that is easy to lose sight of within the pace of a regular day. A place where some questions have easy answers, and others feel best left to mystery. This porch is like that. Things make sense here, especially on summer mornings.
So what’s not to love? Well, when the leaves are off the trees I am able to spot eight houses from this porch, and of those eight houses, I can count five adults that I know of who’ve had/have cancer. Five people in eight neighboring houses seems excessive. A few years back I asked someone on our road if they felt this was one of those cancer clusters you read about, and they said, nah, it’s just random. I’m not so sure about that. If five people in eight houses does not constitute a cancer cluster, pray tell, what does? When I'm on this porch, I think of these people, of their cancer.
Nutrition matters. Movement matters. Sunshine and fresh air matter. Loving relationships matter. All of these things and more are ingredients for the good life, but can we ever do enough? Can we ever reach a point where a woman can stand on her front porch in what is a pretty rural setting by most standards, and not feel her heart break for every person around her that’s received the horrid diagnosis of cancer. Can we really meditate or ferment or green juice our way through Fukushima laced jet streams or fracking or pipeline spills or fluoridated water or the (proposed) abolishment of the EPA? I don’t know that we can.
Geez. What a dreadful couple of paragraphs. I would say I am sorry, but I’m told I apologize too much. I wasn’t kidding when I suggested my relationship with this porch is complicated.
So, yes, I love this porch, and it also makes me feel really angry and sort of hopeless. But in the quiet of those early summer mornings I am reminded that when I’m in Vermont, my eyes and throat do not burn and the rivers do not carry an offensive smell; that although I’ve not canvassed the entire ridge, it does not appear to be plagued with cancer. I listen attentively as this temple of wood and nails reminds me to keep doing the only thing I’ve ever known to truly work: the next right thing. Of all the problem solving lessons this porch has given me, the reminder to just do the next right thing is her greatest teaching of all. If you are my daughter, my husband, or my friend, you’ve already heard me say this a time or ten. Just do the next right thing. Most days, the next right thing is all I’ve got to give.
And maybe right now, in this very moment, my next right thing is tending the kombucha, or sadhana, or showing my husband unexpected kindness, or calling my senator, or sweeping the kitchen floor. It’s okay if these small actions are all I’ve got, because you know what? The craziest part about doing the next right thing, is that it’s always a good idea. It’s always a success. It’s always what the world needs us to do.
Guess we best get to it.