The front porch at Sandhill is a room with no walls. I have sat here to watch the sunset blaze with colors from the Crayola 64 box, to watch deer across the way eating their fill of my daddy's peanuts, to listen to the wind chimes call out to someone I can not see. One night I made room for a long table around which friends gathered to share food and celebrate good news.
Tonight I have come out hoping to see the moon. And tonight, for the second night in a row, I am disappointed to find the liquid circle of yellow obscured by clouds. They are thick and thin, a vast piece of cotton batting stretched out into an irregular thickness by celestial hands.
It is still. The wind chimes hang like weights in a grandfather clock, held in plumb by gravity and humidity, moving not at all. Six empty rocking chairs of slightly different shapes and sizes and states of needing paint sit like sculpture, their long white lines still visible against the falling night.
I am reminded of the old parlor game question: If you could invite anyone, living or dead, to a dinner party, who would you choose? I ask myself, If you could have anyone, living or dead, sitting in these six rocking chairs, tonight, under the thick clouds, in the stickiness of midsummer, who would you choose?
Names and faces flow through my mind like movie credits. They divide themselves, like sheep and goats, without my conscious thought. Most of them, for totally acceptable reasons like preferring air conditioning, end up with the goats. The ones left, the sheep, are huddled together in a small flock. All of them are people I actually know. No celebrities or politicians. Not even Jesus or Gandhi or Mother Teresa. Some of them have died, a few are still alive.
I must narrow them down. There are only six chairs after all. Who do I really want out here with me on this muggy night with no stars and a shrouded moon? Who would want to be out here with me in this room with no walls and a growing number of mosquitoes? Who would be willing to sit in the stillness and let the stillness do all the talking?
I struggle with wondering whether they would all get along, whether anyone would ask who else was going to be there, whether there might need to be assigned seating so that any particular two of them don’t end up side by side.
Suddenly, without a hint of breeze, the wind chime tones out six notes. Six single notes. They sound like the beginning of an orchestral overture. I wait for more, but there are no more. Six notes. One for each chair. Through the deepening darkness I can still see them and I can almost see the notes flutter and fall into their singular seats. I feel as though I have been rocking, like a chair, planting my feet to move forward, lifting them to fall away.
The faces are coming into focus. They have, it turns out, invited themselves. They are, in fact, the people who are always here, always on this porch, always in this wall-less room that is my heart.