There are places in which we live that are easily quantified and qualified. They are light, they are dark. They are open, they are closed. They are intimate, they are populous. Then there are those spaces that are less easily defined—they fall in the gaps of grey. The beautiful in-betweens. The screen porch is such a place, a space that is neither inside nor outside. The Shetland sweater of rooms, it is a compromise of comfort and exposure, formality and ease. The screen porch appeals to our tempered desire for the natural—birds chirp but  stay out of your hair, bees buzz, but the Epi Pen stays put. In the deep inside, AC is king, but on the screen porch, cross-breeze is queen and the peepers the chorus of her court. There are no campfires here, but there are lamps lit late, long after one recognizes their conversation has moved into the dark.  

Back before central air was de rigueur in new construction, the screen porch was the summer place to be if one was to be indoors. However, my house on Bushey Road did not come equipped with such luxuries, so the basement, with its dank coolness, was my haven from the heat. This room had the added benefit of allowing undetected samplings of my dad’s extensive collection of PBRs.  

But for the more sophisticated summer activities of board games and cards there was Tim McFall’s mother’s screen porch. This was an adult space—no soda, ice cream or popsicles here—only water in cut glasses was ever placed on the glossy painted sills of this room. A real wicker sofa dominated the space; four of us boys could easily share its floral cushion (scarlet begonias, I think, perhaps an unintentional homage to The Dead). A grey squirrel would visit on occasion, watching with interest the roll of the dice and our goofy grins from its perch on an encroaching oak branch. We loved this squirrel with more zeal than may have been warranted, but some things were always better here—FM radio, The Game of Life, and food. Maybe it was the alchemy of the verdant  molecules carried on the summer air, mixed with the leaves and skins and husks of the salads and fruits we were allowed in this space, but no bowl of cut strawberries ever tasted better than in this room.

Some time removed from these children’s games, I comforted a tearful Martha Wiseman on the begoniaed couch. Teenage cruelty had taken its toll that night, and only the steady, wearing, and somewhat insistent presence of my embrace soothed her troubled soul. Now now Martha, tell Brad all about it, your voice a whisper in her ear, your hand an electric entity on her knee. And that oak, that same oak, reached out as if to pat her back in comfort through the wire mesh. Inside. Outside. Together. Alone. In that wonderful space. 

Many many years later on a different porch in a different place I sat in the fading light of dusk with my newborn son falling asleep on my lap, the rain from a windless shower following the sun, falling straight down, and my wife drifting downward too onto my chest. All of us falling, falling into that safe and perfect place in between.

Writer Brad Woodger runs the Royal and Ancient Chappaquiddick Links in summer.