The View from the Porch through One Eye
The view from my porch was different this week.
For most of my life I have lived in a four-season world, though the seasons were definable as much by a person’s activities as by the weather.
Growing up in Oregon, our four seasons consisted of spring rain, summer rain, fall rain and winter rain. We did have a protracted foggy season in late fall. We also had summer smoke season when Willamette Valley grass-seed growers burned their fields. It was a good place to grow up. I was a jogger in Oregon and still dream of running the sawdust trails in Eugene no matter the season.
Minnesota was a definite four-season state. Fall and spring were wonderful. Humidity was bearable, leaves were either emerging or falling. The days were warm, the nights crisp.
Summer was more accurately known as mosquito season. The bothersome bugs are as big as jet fighters in Minnesota and just as scary. I once caught a mosquito so big I put it in a plastic baggy to show my friends in Oregon.
Of course, Minnesota is better known for its winters. And I experienced two of the snowiest and two of the coldest in my time there. I still jogged in those days and could do long runs in temperatures as extreme as 15, even 20 below if the wind was calm.
I did learn to ice skate on the frozen lakes and even tried skiing for the first time until I humiliated myself on the bunny slope.
Kansas was a five-season state. The big four were what one might experience in any plains state, and summer humidity was downright oppressive. That fifth season was all about tornados and it could be scary. A tiny little tornado once took the roof off our house and sent a huge tree through our kitchen.
Colorado is supposed to be four-season. But in my experience living along the Front Range, it was two seasons – snow and no snow.
When you are young, seasons and seasonal changes matter little. Your body and mind adapt to the season no matter the conditions.
That changes as you get older.
Winter cold becomes less bearable and winter activities more difficult. I always wondered why retirees moved to warmer climates. I understand now. But at my age, I also find extreme heat exhausting so there will be no move to Arizona.
Knowing what I know of the rest of the country, Spokane is a good place to be, the seasons mostly bearable. We have extreme heat for only a few days each summer and winter snows are mostly manageable.
Since moving to Eastern Washington, spring and fall have become my favored seasons. And because I cannot be as active as I was in the past, I mostly experience those seasons from my porch.
From the porch I can watch the huge trees in our neighborhood leaf out in spring and then watch the leaves turn color and drop in the autumn.
I can watch the world pass by – and smoke the occasional cigar.
But this last week, I was forced to enjoy my porch time with one eye, not two. Eye surgery left my right eye swollen and black, my vision fuzzy. With macular degeneration beginning to impair vision in my left eye, the view was decidedly different.
It was if I was seeing the neighborhood through a telescope. The breeze was mild. The leaves still green. The neighborhood kids still squealing as they tumbled home from school. My telescopic view limited the breadth of field, but it also sharpened the focus.
And I don’t think I have ever been so happy sitting on that porch.
Advancing age can deprive you of flexibility and mobility, can make movement difficult, challenge your balance, and make hearing problematic. Vision may decline.
It is true as we get older our world gets smaller. As the world contracts, the seasons hold less meaning, have less impact on my life. I now see fall and spring from the porch but see winter and summer largely through the front window.
There will come a day, as it comes to all of us, when I will see all four seasons through that window.
Until then, I have my porch. And even this last week, with one hinky eye, the view was glorious.
Steven A. Smith is clinical associate professor emeritus in the School of Journalism and Mass Media at the University of Idaho having retired from full time teaching at the end of May 2020. His columns reflect his progressive political views. Smith was raised in a Jewish home and is culturally Jewish. However, he considers himself an atheist, which is reflected in his writing. Smith is former editor of The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington. As editor, Smith supervised all news and editorial operations on all platforms until his resignation in October 2008. Prior to joining The Spokesman-Review, Smith was editor for two years at the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon, and was for five years editor and vice president of The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Newspaper Management Center Advanced Executive Program and a mid-career development program at Duke University. He holds an M.A. in communication from The Ohio State University where he was a Kiplinger Fellow, and a B.S. in journalism from the University of Oregon. Smith currently serves on the SpokaneFāVS Board of Trustees.