It’s summer and the living is easy! For me summer always has a surprise element. We plan all types of activities, trips and outings. One of my summer experiences was being invited to come and stay for a week at the Chautauqua Institute in New York. When the invite was extended, I wasn’t really sure where I was going or what I was in store for. What I did know was that our dear friends spent part of every past summers there and always spoke so lovingly about their time in Chautaqua. Well, it was now our time to share in the Chautauqua experience. First, let me just say how awesome, amazing, intriguing, fun, happy, joyful, confusing and busy the week was. There were hundreds of offerings we could take part in and to add to the programming for the week that was scheduled, there were dozens more social gatherings.
I learned so much from the informal gatherings on the PORCH! During a guided tour of the land of Chautauqua, the guide explained about how important the porch of everyone’s home is for the those who have homes in Chautauqua. The guide shared that porches are steeped with pride and everyone strives to have a robust active porch. The porch is noted as the place where anyone can dream, read, chill, laugh, cry, solve problems, socialize, eat, drink, decorate, entertain, host talks, discuss the day, meet, greet, and live.
The PORCH has significance in Chautauqua and all who come or visit the area, realize immediately how much care is given to the porch. For example, the flowers of Chautauqua are gladiolas and hydrangeas. Each week a big beautiful bouquet of flowers is placed outside on the porch to honor the porch, the home and to welcome guests, family or visitors.
Homeowners invite guests who are just walking by to come and join them on the porch to chat. The porches are wide and inviting. They have huge rocking chairs that invite conversation. Most all the porches have a dining table of some sort for dinners out on the porch. I witnessed live music being played on a porch and everyone stopping to enjoy the beautiful melodious sounds.
The PORCH has power. I knew if from the first day I arrived. I felt the love of the porches. I spent time with my husband on our friend’s porch. We sat and talked as if we were first meeting. In Chautauqua, the conversation always begins with the question what did you do today or what are you planning to do today? From that one question the conversations on the porch expands and weaves into many topics of conversations. As a guest, my husband had the pleasure of entertaining an author of a book he loved from when he began his career. The author lived just across the street and asked to meet my husband on the Porch. They sat and talked and visited and one another and looked at web sites together. All was conducted on the PORCH!
In the calm and stillness of the sunset, we went outside on the upper porch to celebrate the sunsetting from the PORCH. The porches of Chautauqua are busy with the important decisions and conversations unscheduled and scheduled taking place.
Our host is a great speaker and he was invited to 5 talks over our week’s visit on various porches. Each of the denominations represented there has their own house and most importantly a porch to host talks and discuss global issues, local issues and whatever topic is selected. The “porch talks” as they are called are also listed in the daily Chautauqua newspaper. This is the paper where daily updates to the program are available along with recaps and interviews of the key speaker of the day.
The strong, solid, power on the porch was palpable. With each day that I was there, the conversations about the porch and how the porch served the community intrigued me. I began to wonder when the last time was I witnessed people in full use of the porch of their homes. This simple act of community is rarely seen in my neighborhood. I hope I always can have the porch experience!
So here is what I would like to ask you:
The 4 pillars of Chautauqua are religion, recreation, education and the arts. I am certain with hundreds of offerings at the institute in all these areas it must have been difficult to come up with just 4. Chautauqua dates back to 1800s. I am not sure when the pillars were decided, but everything works for the expansion and recognition of one of the 4 pillars.
I returned home from Chautauqua, and thought of my life and what are the 4 pillars of my life and if I had to name just 4 pillars what would they be? What are the 4 areas of my life that are so important that I engage them every day. For when you review the pillars and the offerings of Chautauqua you see how they walk the talk. The 4 pillars are being addressed every day, all day and at night.
Well after some thought; I would say these are still not complete in my choosing, here are the 4 pillars of my life:
QUESTION: What are your 4 pillars?
On the last full day of my week in Chautauqua, I was on a porch at 12:30. I walked to the Jewish Life house. When I arrived, inside the house was packed as well as the porch. It is at this talk that I realized that THE POWER on the PORCH was very much alive and working here. The Jewish Life center has the largest porch I had visited this week. It was the location for meeting the Home Boys and Home Girls from Home Boys Industries in Los Angeles. I had the honor of meeting them throughout the week and I was still called to be at this last opportunity. Well the inside library was packed with people and in anticipation that this would be a crowded event, they prepared the PORCH so that as many as could would pack in on the porch to see the Homeboys and Homegirls.
The inspiration of the stories of the Home Boys and Home Girls was felt on the PORCH from the
TV screens. The PORCH seat was very powerful, and everyone present shared the POWER on the Porch.
I loved my time in Chautauqua and my many experiences on the porch. I am grateful to have been invited and may I always remember the POWER of the PORCH.
With gratitude and joy
Some of my favorite porches – pictures I captured!