In the morning, porch time is precious

asnow@newsobserver.comJuly 5, 2014 

Morning is my favorite time of day. I relish the unhurried couple of hours on the porch sipping post-breakfast coffee before Old Sol’s sizzling rays drive me inside.

My wife and I have earned these leisurely mornings. For decades we hit the floor running at 6:30 a.m. to get me off to the newspaper by 7:30, after which she ushered two children off to school and then headed for her teaching job at ye olde university on Hillsborough Street.

The silvery notes of the wood thrush drift up from the woodland behind the house. He’s the one of which poet Robert Browning wrote, “He sings each song twice over, lest you should think he never could recapture the first fine careless rapture!”

I’ve laid aside The N&O after swallowing my Adam’s apple again at seeing in print the $990 an hour attorney Kenneth Wainstein is charging to get to the bottom of Carolina’s academic scandal. I sigh as I read about the continuing turmoil in the Middle East, not to mention the feud between a Chatham County firing range owner and his neighbor, a woman who houses 200 nervous cats.

A late-sleeping squirrel trudges up the driveway and pauses to glower at me before moving under the bird feeders to glean seeds accidentally dropped by the birds.

He will then climb the pole holding the battery-charged feeder and carefully slide down its slippery length to land on the perch ring. He either enjoys or endures being whirled round and round and hurled into space or he realizes that if he repeats the procedure long enough he’ll run down the battery and have access to the seed.

A young woman with a dog on a leash walks briskly up the street. The dog insists on pausing to sniff the grass on my neighbor’s lawn.

“Uh oh,” I think, noting that the woman carries no scoop or poop bag. Will Fido leave his morning “do” or merely tinkle? He finally marks the spot with the latter and they move on. ( As far as I know, dog lovers don’t carry containers to catch tinkle. Furthermore, collecting it would require remarkable skills indeed.)

Nevertheless, last summer my wife’s handsome street-side geraniums were victimized by passing dogs’ desperate need of fire hydrants.

If I could amend the Ten Commandments, right under “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife,” I would add “Thou shalt not let thy dog pee on other people’s geraniums.”

My rumination over how to deal with passing dogs is diverted by a young family of four, prospective buyers of the house next door.

Who will be living next door, as most of you know, is of vital importance to adjoining neighbors.

We cannot hope to be as fortunate as we were when we moved here 54 years ago and were welcomed literally into the arms and the hearts of Frank and Marie Smith and their daughter Betty.

Although we shared no blood lines, they became “family” in every other sense of the word.

On my return to the house from doling out the baby bluebirds’ daily diet of mealworms, I call a cheery hello to the foursome next door, in the event they’re interested in knowing more about the neighborhood. Apparently they aren’t.

I try to read the faces of the two teenagers to detect signs of approval or disapproval of the house. I surmise that they aren’t very excited. After all, this is a rather sedate neighborhood, although we do have three teenage males on the block. We shall see.

The luxury of morning reminds me of the hymn, “Morning Has Broken.”

Mine is the sunlight,

Mine is the morning

Praise with elation, praise ev’ry morning

God’s recreation of the new day.

That’s good advice for all of us, retirees or otherwise.

Snow: 919-836-5636 or

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