I have fond memories of sitting on a front porch with my mother. She loved being outside anywhere she went. I said “a” front porch and not “our” front porch, because everywhere I have lived or even visited with my mom she gravitated to the front porch. She loved her porch overlooking a lake as she watched the sunset or stoked the chiminea. On warm days, we toasted our glasses to iced tea or cold lemonade. In the mornings, we liked our hot coffee. Sometimes in the afternoon we had hot tea.

Often there was a swing, or a rocking chair, or maybe a chase lounge. It was not about the beverage or the furniture, it was about being together. My mother loved having someone over to share her exquisite view. She always had enough food for you if you were hungry. The children giggled as they roasted marshmallows.

She had a word for you as well. In our younger days, she was never short on advice. I once read these words written on the back of a senior picture of a friend of my sister to my mother, “You are God’s gift to young people.”  To the grandchildren, she would tell family stories. In the later years, she found it hard to hear but she also wanted to be heard.

As I reflect our front porch tales and through the years the conversations I have had with friends and family, I noticed something. Often, we faced forward. To see the beautiful view? Yes. Because it was narrow? Yes. But there is a deeper reason as well.

When I went to Iona recently, one of our spiritual guides said often conversations on the pilgrimages around the island were more intense and intimate. She felt it may have to do with facing forward as we walked. She said she knew her grown children wanted to talk to her when one would say, “Mom, lets go walk the dog.” Have you ever noticed how open conversations can be with your teenagers as you are driving? It reminds me of Emily Dickenson’s famous poem, “tell the truth and tell it slant.”

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —


Tell all the truth but tell it slant —

Success in Circuit lies

Too bright for our infirm Delight

The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased

With explanation kind

The Truth must dazzle gradually

Or every man be blind —

No one can handle all of the truth about ourselves or others or our world head on with no filter. Giving eye contact has its purpose and there are times for that. Yet, I wonder if sometimes we may need to look away to share what may be too important for a direct gaze.