In the Tradition of Porches and Deer Parks
There’s a tradition Maine island people have perfected. Porching. Visit a Casco Bay Island or a summer lake camp and you’ll find impromptu invitations from neighbors for stopping by just long enough to say hello and hear neighborhood news.
Some might say the tradition, requiring a front porch, is as old as the American front lawn, an art form born before air conditioning, when idling on the verandah was a hallmark of the newly-created leisure class. Once lawns became communal spaces designed to connect a neighborhood, the porch became the vantage point to “see what was coming” along the street.
Perhaps that’s useful guidance for helping us all get back to re-entry and a qualified happily-ever-after, where we begin to define what safely distanced and #alonetogether means.
First, of course, porching takes a porch. There are many suggestions for porch décor, from the traditional blue ceiling – like ours, said to imitate the sky and (perhaps usefully, at the moment) to ward off evil spirits. But imagination says a porch is a shady spot, with a comfy chair and a view of the safe, secure, serene horizon that brought you out to begin with. Here at Spruce Point, the view is of water and woodlands: the sea breeze propelling sailboats on the bay and drawing birdsong from leafy branches. Sooner or later, that world will lure you from the porch and your book or nap, for a leisurely stroll, for ‘forest bathing” in an oasis of calm.
The popularity of lawns and porches speaks to the era when Spruce Point Inn was built as a camp for rusticators. Still, there’s something in the Maine porching concept that seems especially apt in these days of physical distancing.
True porching suggests a bit of interaction – but not too much. Porching is not a party. Sometimes it’s just a wave, as neighbors pass by on their saunters, flaneurs reimagined for a future we didn’t see coming. Sometimes it’s stopping for a glass of wine, craft beer or lemonade, with a few of you distanced around the porch perimeter, one perched on the railing, another on the steps. On the wide decks and screened-in porches here at the resort, it’s completely possible to stay six feet apart and still enjoy each other’s company.
On our lawn, the Westport chairs can be rearranged in arcs that take in both the sunset and the friends or family who were the first you wanted to spend time with once the virus was at bay. Our front porch, chairs spaced among the hanging flower baskets, seems designed for cautiously optimistic views of the dawnland.
One history of the American lawn suggests that Thomas Jefferson and George Washington (who included a European-style bowling green and a deer park at Mount Vernon) set the fashion for the lawn and their verandahs. Some now might argue the merits of the American lawn. But here on Spruce Point, where we steward the connection between land and sea, where we control weeds with salt water and where the deer come of their own volition to play, porching seems a thoughtful way to cautiously re-introduce the connectedness that cultivates those ‘oceanside memories made in Maine.’
When we look up and out and see you coming down Grand Avenue, we’ll move aside to make a place for you on the porch. The deer, forest-bathing in their woods, will too.
Spruce Point Inn