Laughing on front porch with dog
A place for memory making: My fondest memories of those I've lost over the years took place on the front porch. (Photo: Anna Norris)

It’s where I spend most mornings and most evenings, where I set up shop with my zoom lens and a cup of coffee, where I have my deepest conversations with friends and family. Warm breezes, afternoon thunderstorms, crickets in the evening – there's nothing like spending summertime out on the front porch.

Petting dog on front porch
A place to show affection: I can think of no better spot to pet your pup than his favorite spot, the front porch. (Photo: Anna Norris)

Growing up, our front porch was like a second living room, where the view was far more fascinating than the television. Seeing cars fly down the dirt road, kicking up dust; spotting the birds flitting to and from the feeders and bird bath; watching the dogs sunbathe at the edge of the stairs. How many photos of how many different things could I take, limiting myself to that bottom porch stair? I could play that game for hours.

Caterpillar cralws across front porch
A place where wildlife thrives: The front porch has an ecosystem all of its own. (Photo: Anna Norris)
Chickadee splashes around in bird bath
A place for observation: The bird bath saw hosted many visitors in summertime. (Photo: Anna Norris)
Eastern phoebe in tree
A birdwatcher's paradise: This eastern phoebe was a regular visitor to the bird feeder. (Photo: Anna Norris)

It was where I developed my love for photography, where I realized it could be a form of art. It was where I became an amateur birdwatcher of sorts, sitting still and quiet and diligent with my guide. It was where I grew up.

Carolina chickadee on bird feeder
A place for making friends: Carolina chickadees are friendly as can be when there are seeds around. (Photo: Anna Norris)
Hummingbird landed on branch
A place where patience pays off: The front porch is a comfortable spot to wait for the perfect photo opportunity. (Photo: Anna Norris)

In my family, we could all sit and be silent without any awkwardness, or chat for hours about everything under the sun. It was where we played music and sang, and told our jokes – our best moments took place on that front porch.

Macro photo of pillow on porch
A place to explore the details: Equipped with a macro lens, the front porch offers the perfect setting for a closer examination of life's tiniest features. (Photo: Anna Norris)

Everyone had their own seat. My miniature dachshund, Tuffy, claimed the rocking chair — always in the sunlight and his happiest post; his mom, Copper, on the edge of the stairs, always keeping watch. Dad strumming his 12-string guitar, mom with a cup of coffee in tow, occasionally a sibling home from college or surfacing from the basement’s video game lair. More than the dinner table or the TV-room couch, the front porch brought us all together.

Dog in rocking chair
An old dog's favorite spot: With a view of the yard and plenty of sunshine, Tuffy seldom chose another seat. (Photo: Anna Norris)
Dog on porch steps
A place in the sun: Copper looks out from her post on the sunny porch steps. (Photo: Anna Norris)

Now, the growing up is all done (or at least, most of it). We’ve all dissipated from our places on the front porch. “Home” is a vast array of places and people and far-away feelings. Our beloved family meeting space has become ancient history – and it took a while to pinpoint that empty feeling.

Guitar case on front porch
A place for music: Guitar cases were just as much a regular sight on our front porch as chairs, swings, and coffee mugs. (Photo: Anna Norris)

It was when I sat in the same rocking chair but in a different setting, a new house, when my dad brought over his acoustic guitar and we all sat outside until long past sunset – it was then that the feeling finally started to fade, and the emptiness began to fill once more with music and laughter and home. The front porch isn’t a place; it’s a feeling.

Coffee cup and rocking chair on front porch
A place for new adventures: It may not be Old Faithful, but any porch will do. (Photo: Anna Norris)

Anna Norris is an associate editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

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