Why we Porch Sit in the South
In South Brunswick County, people understand that porch is both a noun and a verb.
Front porches have been part of American architecture since Colonial days. Other cultures have them, but no one else has embraced porch life as wholeheartedly as Americans. The front porch is “the interface between the private world and your community,” says Claude Stephens, founder of the Professional Porch Sitters Union.
We all know that a porch is, as Merriam-Webster defines it, a covered area adjoining an entrance to a building with a separate roof. For any etymologists in the room, the word originated from the Latin porta (passage) to porticus (colonnade) to porche (old French) and finally porch (Middle English).
But did you know that the word porch is also used as a verb? The contemporary online Urban Dictionary says porching is the act of sitting on a porch and talking. Porching is a path to community building and a way to watch the world go by. Have you ever taken a walk, planned or otherwise, but stopped when greeted by a neighbor to join the person on their porch in conversation? That is porching.
The anatomy of a great front porch for sure includes rocking chairs, and Max L. Hill, III (in Michael Dolan’s The American Porch: An Informal History of an Informal Place, 2002) suggests additional elements to include a fan, a welcome mat, room for a dog, a sitting-height rail, real plants, a swing, little or no lighting and bicycle close by.
In Woodsong, a quiet, secluded neighborhood in Shallotte, the charming Charleston-style cottages all have front porches, and its residents are all about porch living. In an informal survey, Woodsong residents offered more anatomical suggestions for porches: a glass of wine or a cold beer on a hot day, comfortable furniture with pillows, an area rug and seasonal decor. Other suggested requirements included morning coffee and a newspaper, favorite books, friends and laughter. One household specialty in this neighborhood is muscadine popsicles, which are a great addition to porching.
“If the kitchen is the heart of our house, the porch is its soul,” says Woodsong resident Julia Steffen. “Inside the house is where the tasks of daily living that seem to grow by the day get checked off the list. But outside we porch to return to those things that really matter.”
“The curb appeal of the porch got us in the door to purchasing the house,” adds another Woodsong resident.
Porching is the most relaxing part of the day, a time for conversation with people or a time to listen and watch nature and wildlife or simply be alone to plan the day or read the paper.
People porch at the end of a beautiful day to reconnect with each other, neighbors and surroundings. They may watch a child grow or a pet fish thrive. They porch as a family or with neighbors, relatives, friends, houseguests and pets. Young children and teens alike can be found porching.
And how long do they porch? On a good day it can last for hours. Most residents porch daily — morning, afternoon or evening. One Woodsong resident says, “I porch until the sun goes down, the dinner bell rings or the wine is gone.”
Something magical happens when people are into porching. A common thread among the residents of Woodsong is that they have gotten to know their neighbors better here than in any other neighborhood where they have lived. So many people are out walking and jogging through the narrow streets, saying hello in passing or stopping to chat on the porch. This is a recipe for a caring, happy community.
Try it yourself. When all else fails, go porching, and soon everyone will be content. Or expressed another way, chillin’ on a porch for an extended amount of time soothes the mind.