The View From Your Front PorchBy John Schwenkler for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC
Lincoln, Nebraska — When I first read about FPR’s View from Your Porch series, I immediately decided to submit something. Then I thought about the view from my front porch. Like much of Nebraska, its beauty doesn’t announce itself. You have to wait for it. There’s a public school with a bland brick facade directly across from us, and most of the homes on either side aren’t well maintained by their owners. When I thought of that view and compared it to the sort of idyllic small-town rural vistas I imagined FPR readers enjoying, my own place seemed tawdry, dirty, and oh-so-modern in comparison. As an added bonus, my neighborhood is one of Lincoln’s poorest, and my apartment is within 50 feet of the governor’s mansion and about 200 feet of the state capitol. I don’t know a better metaphor for the state of our body politic.
But the more I sit on my porch the more I feel secure about my place. I’m reminded of Wendell Berry’s warning against wishing for the life — and I think we can extend that to include the place — of another. There’s a certain loveliness to Lincoln’s near south, especially in the fall. The trees here are old, “and their roots go deep.” (That’s Tolkien describing Fangorn, but I sometimes suspect the midwest is similarly-haunted. I think Willa Cather and Marilynne Robinson would agree.) In their autumn colors they have a kind of aged splendor about them, the beauty of a wizened old woman dressed her best. And while it’s true that the houses could be cleaned up a bit, there’s a certain charm to their obviously lived-in appearance. These houses aren’t built to impress, aren’t intended primarily for the owners to put on airs or flaunt their wealth and accomplishments. They’re places where people live. And they look it. In a way, that waited-on beauty and lack of pretension might sum up my home state better than anything else I know.
FPR is looking for portraits of life in your communities, no matter how plain or quotidian. Want to share one? Just e-mail a photograph of the view from – not of – your front porch to [email protected], together with a written reflection of no more than a few hundred words. Writing may be lightly edited. We’ll gladly withhold your name if you ask us to.