Monday, July 25, 2011

The Black Gate

The Black Gate

It has been years since I strolled down this pathway. All around and above me the muscular arms of live oaks are frozen in ballet poses no dancer could achieve. Their gnarled and bony roots, perhaps curious about life above ground, have broken through the pavement - I tread carefully over rolling waves of concrete. From the secret gardens of storybook homes the trees call out to be noticed, waving dusty hankies of moss as I pass.
 But I will not be distracted today.
Just as I put out my hand to hold back a gregarious palm frond, I see it. The black gate. But what’s this? It’s open? And where is the handwritten sign that usually swings from from the burnt rusted lock ?
Curious, I allow my eye to trespass beyond the gate and into the overgrown garden, curving and winding till it reaches the rickety porch. No one there. The house, long past its once glorious prime, sits forlorn in this sweltering heat of July - no hand to slap open its rusty screen door, no breeze to dance with the porch swing. And no sign of the lady who once serenely presided over this shaded Southern veranda.
Well really, what did I expect? She must have been nearly ninety the last time I saw her, when we’d smiled to each other as I passed under the oaks. The colour of the richest chocolate, she was clad in a white linen dress, and the sign that swung on her painted black gate read,
“Porch Conversations. $1.00”.

I always planned to push that gate open one hot afternoon, put down my dollar and settle in for a chat. We would eschew the usual topics of weather and politics, and talk only of butterflies, cloud castles and pie. I might discover she’d descended from kings. She might find out all my secrets.
But it always happened that each time I passed by, I seemed to be wandering off elsewhere - to lunch, to the beach, to the antique shop on the corner. So we simply smiled and nodded as I made my way past, never knowing my path would lead to the day of no second chances, to the morning of the vacant porch.
I sigh.
I rather think we would have liked each other.

So perhaps as a tribute to the friend I might have known, I’ll hang a similar sign on my front gate when I’m old:

“Porch Conversations. $1.00.
Come talk to me now.
 I won’t be here for long.


  1. Ah, second chances. There is something so sad in this story. If it were fiction, I think I might find her emerging from the back of the house with some field flowers, and that long awaited conversation would begin.

  2. She was a wise woman, putting a value on her porch conversations. I think we all would have enjoyed speaking with her, as we do you now. Good lesson too, don't put off what can be done today!

  3. Beautiful reminder to allow ourselves permission to stray from our path we set out on from time to time.

  4. Any fortunate person to read a sign on your gate would be enticed to plonk down their dollar (I'd even drop a fiver!).......step through and then be thrilled to bits to have a conversation on the porch with you! I will be at the head of the line - but you'll have to do it before you're old because I'm so much older already!!!!!

    Butterflies would be a lovely subject, clouds in all their different disguises, and pie - oh my, strawberry rhubarb, lemon meringue, Key lime, even a fattening, calorie laden, real southern bourbon pecan and a nice crisp crust! What the heck, who's gonna count calories when eating pie with Pamela and Edward!!!!!!!!!

    Stay cool - even though it's impossible!
    Hugs - Mary

    P.S. I hope that lady is conversing happily in heaven!

  5. I have one such, "Grandma" we call her, two blocks over. This morning she offered Honey & Biscuit cookies and pronounced "they haven't eaten in weeks!" as we had a good laugh together. Ahh the treasure of the wise ones...sending cool thoughts to you & the furry ones....

  6. I am not frequently moved to tears by someone's posts, but you, dear lady, have done it on more than one occasion. What a writer you are!

    I also love the world you live in. Soft, happy conversations about butterflies and rainbows and lovely, comfort foods like pie! If I ever see such a sign I will gladly add my dollar and join in!

    I want to be you when I grow up, with an Edward of my own.

    Please pass me the hankies....

  7. just rendered to tears.....
    so true, so sweet,
    I sense you are in somewhere in my old stomping ground of coastal Georgia or coastal Carolinas.
    The moss in the tree appearing to be a old tattered reference did more for my soul than I can possibly convey.......

  8. Porch conversations, how charming! This sounds so Southern,at least to this Northwesterner. I would have hesitated to stop for fear she would find out all my secrets. Perhaps she was lonely or just really enjoyed getting to know other people.

  9. Ah, you tugged at my heartstrings with this one. I'll let it pull for a while and then thing of the day I may wander past a garden gate, see such a sign, and stop for a visit. Remind Edward to look for me . . .

  10. So sad, - how often we ignore the promptings of our hearts, and then it is too late. If you have a rose, give it now. Tomorrow may be too late...

  11. Dear Pamela,
    I would have loved to have sat on that porch, paid my dollar and had a conversation. I bet she had some wonderful tales to tell.
    Thomas Jefferson was right when he said ' Don't put off 'till tomorrow, what can be done today. XXXX

  12. What a clever and unique lady. How sad to see the sign was no longer there. It does make you wonder what tales she could have told, what secrets she might have shared. Or perhaps you'd have sat and drank home-made lemonade and watched the birds. Now I'm sighing with you.

  13. And now we all have virtual porch conversations without leaving our couches while wearing our pajamas. Times have changed. I think I'll take my laptop, sit on my porch swing while I sip my ice tea or mint julep and visit with my blogging friends, recalling a gentler time. Ahh, porches.....

  14. A day of no second chances..... Now I'm really wishing you had gone in. Wish you could explore the garden!

  15. Porch conversations...I have wonderful memories of sitting on the porch at my grandparents' home in western Pennsylvania. We sipped lemonade and watched the neighbors walk by. Frequently they would come on to the porch and visit. I miss those easy days of summer. No one seems to have porches in Los Angeles. I love the image of the lady on the porch with the standing invitation. We need to return to that idea of getting to know our neighbors.

  16. YES! I will be there!
    What sweet and tender musings on our time here!
    Summer greetings from the lovely South, near Savannah!
    xoxo V.

  17. How dear, this story...reminding us to seize the moment.

  18. such a poignant story with a lesson to be learned. stay cool, have some sweet tea, and take a nap with edward.

  19. those are the words of wisdom we all miss-regret. there are so many offering that conversation for free and we still hesitate-the never takens of regret- or take them quickly. beautiful prose as always.

  20. WOW..amazing..Now..dearest..shall I tell you a story....:)

  21. Fabulous as usual!
    Great post!
    Jamie Herzlinger

  22. *** THANK YOU... you made me stop and think... and that's a good thing~~~

    I shall share this with my family!!!

    Linda in AZ *

  23. i am always touched by a little magic when i read your posts.
    no, i'm not a fan of magic. make that enchantment.
    words are very important! and you make your world and ours more enchanting!
    thank you.
    tammy j

  24. thank you for your comment on my blog!
    best wishes

  25. OMG.

    You came to me, with such sweet praise....but THIS...THIS is poetry. We stroll and amble through an ORDINARY day and then you hit us at the end with a universal truth. I can see why my wonderful friend, The Dutchess, adores you....I must follow you NOW.

    Lovely story, poignant reminder. Thank you. Anita

  26. HI Pamela,

    Anita put me in touch with your blog and I just became a member. I enjoy what you write and how you write it. For an aspiring writer as myself, it is a joy connecting to other lovers writing.

    You could have said, in life, be careful not to miss those chances.....

    But you didn't say it, you painted it with words.

    Thank you


  27. Oh how I love this...and $1.00, such a deal! Yes, those conversations must be treasured while they are available. My Grandmother is turning 90 this year, and our conversations...priceless.
    Thank you so much for stopping by, I love your blog, but just too much!
    Enjoy your week,

  28. Pamela, your totally charming post is a reminder to us not to rush our way through every day
    thank you

  29. Yes, this moment only comes but once........most excellent reminder...thank you!

  30. Such a gorgeous post. I'm going to link to it :-)
    I'd drop by your porch if I lived nearby!

  31. I think that wise lady knew that people nowadays value what they have to pay for. I dare you to put up the sign one day and see what happens. I know that I'd stop for a chat!

  32. That's just what I needed to read this morning: a "seize the day" story of the very best kind. I so love the idea of porch conversations! xo Gigi

  33. Just a wonderful post.
    And I'd like to mention that I found it via Deniz Bevin's blog link. I'm so glad I did.
    ~ Nadja

  34. Having grown up in the South, I remember very well when all human life was not valued in an equal way. Some simply felt they were by some divine decree to be better than another who happen to be colored by the Divine in a different holy crayon.
    The fact that this magnificent lady did indeed value her time, and words and her attention is beyond inspiring. How can any of us waste our energy with such an inspiration?
    I hope you borrow her song & sing as a part of my life.
    Hugs to you and the handsome Edward.

  35. What a beautiful post! It is funny because I think that sentiment of stopping for a conversation is how I have come to think of your blog. I love visiting here, it is a feast for the eyes and the soul and I often feel as if I can hear you reading your story aloud( although I have never heard you speak)just to me. You are a beautiful writer and I will be the first in line to buy your book! Thank you for being a bright spot in my day as I am sure that you are to many others.

    Oh, thank you also for visitng my blog!


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