The View from my Sister’s Porch

I have a thing about great vistas. I love them. There is something about seeing clearly from all sides in many directions and for miles. I suppose this love of a wide view comes from hiking. That feeling of reaching the top and being rewarded with a spectacular view is the motivation that keeps a hiker going for those remaining, arduous steps. Or maybe this love of vistas comes from my favorite Johnny Nash song “I can see clearly now the rain is gone.”

View from my sister’s porch

Either way, this view from my sister’s porch requires none of the huffing and puffing or difficult navigation or even the breaking of sweat during a summer hike. She just opens her front door! Yes, I can admit to a case of sibling envy when it slaps me in the face, but I love the perch, nonetheless.

Many conversations have been held on her porch over coffee or cocktails and with family members from multiple generations. Time on her swing is as therapeutic as an hour on a counselor’s couch. We’ve batted around political views, discussed retirement plans, shared our pet peeves, and talked about dreams, and fears, for her children’s future. We have recollected on family stories, cringed at accounts of our most embarrassing moments, and laughed or cried at old photos. We have lamented how we acted in past relationships and given each other advice on how to not repeat those mistakes in our current ones. No topic is off-limits, and no future is unimaginable with that view. I cherish those conversations with family just as I cherish that view.

There is something clarifying about viewing this landscape. “I can see it all” I sometimes say when swaying on the porch swing. The valley below, the backside of Massanutten Mountain, the path to Charlottesville down Route 33. There is an understanding that comes with seeing that much all at once. I see how the sunset on one side of the mountain range paints the clouds on the opposite side. I see how the roads connect and the neighborhoods are laid out and how the ridge of the mountain dips in certain places. These things may be knowable from the ground, but they are difficult to grasp in their entirety when at street level, muddled by detail, masked by corners, and blocked by the presence of it all. But when viewed from the top—voila—I can see it all at once. This vantage point unblocks all those details and puts them in order.

In my writing, I’ve often struggled with getting to the right elevation in a story, to position myself so that I can see how all the pieces fit together, to get comfortable moving those pieces around so that the result makes sense. Finally getting to the point of clarity on what a story is supposed to be is akin to sitting on my sister’s porch and looking out into the distance. They both feel wonderful and fuel the imagination.

My only wish is that I had gotten to the mountaintop earlier in the creative process. It would have saved me much huffing and puffing. But when I do reach that elevation and something unlocks for me with a story, I am prone to start belting out my favorite song whether on my sister’s porch or not.  And still, the view, while breathtaking, cannot match the exquisite and invigorating connection with my family on my sister’s front porch.


  1. Oh my, I love this story! Your description and experience of it make me see it in a different way now, so thank you. By the way, I read it from my porch swing. ?

  2. Wow! You could have the subject of a rock and make it sound wonderful and somehow relate it to writing ?. Since moving to the mountains it sure has made me more aware of God’s beauty ❤️

  3. Aggh to see the big picture! So beautiful! And I love recalling our time just spent together there on the porch! ? So cool that you wrote about it. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Thank you for letting us join you on your sister’s front porch. It is always wonderful to sit and enjoy family.

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