Taking Stock on a Summer Porch

Spending a week in August on a porch on Cape Cod provides an opportunity to take stock of a lot of stuff. It’s the perfect occasion to reflect on what’s happened during the previous year, especially if you’re like me and your life has always functioned on an academic calendar year.

This year I wrote one full novel and have substantially completed another. “Substantially completed” sounds like something a lawyer would say, right? Well, I did a bit of that too this year. I worked on the last few cases I have as a lawyer, representing only clients I’ve had for a long time and really care about. I co-chaired Crime Bake, my favorite crime writers conference, for the third time, and attended several others. I keep asking myself when will I take the “semi” out of retired.

I traveled to Mexico, spending January and February in the small coast town of San Pancho on the Pacific coast where I learned to drink Cheladas (Pacifico beer with lime juice and a salted rim), ate mountains of avocados and churros, and made a substantial dent in my TBR pile (I took an entire suitcase filled with books). I went back to St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands to check in and see how the island I so love is healing after Hurricane. And I spent hours reveling in the beauty of my own Cape Cod beaches, finding the desolation of winter oddly magical.

Not a bad year, and surely a life to be grateful for. But the porch begs me to think forward and consider my hopes and dreams. My cousin John and Victor, companions in our annual porch retreat, are planning to move to a condo after twenty-five years in a lovely home. We’re tearing pages out of the piles of magazines we always bring to peruse on the porch that are filled with ideas for their new tiny pond-side garden and the rooms on four levels where we will create new memories.

My husband and I are combing through travel guides for our upcoming trip to Ireland where we will spend my upcoming big birthday. We plan to drive through the West Coast and more without an itinerary, winging it as we go. The time we’re spending contemplating our journey is giving as much pleasure as we expect to enjoy in Ireland and this porch where we sit is the perfect place to do it.

I’ve taken stock and inventory of what I’ve written, but here where the late summer breezes make the screens sing, I consider what I want to write in the future. The stories that sit within me have more room to emerge on this porch. There is this character, a man who escapes from a prison work crew, who keeps elbowing me. He wants to know when is it his turn, when will I tell his story. But then as cousin John and I search the Ancestry.com records and discover details about relatives we never knew, I wonder if I won’t meet my next protagonist on my trip to the Old Sod.

On this porch, anything seems possible.

What are your late summer reflections? Where have you been? Where are you going? I wish you a sweet summer porch to pause and drop onto a rocking chair where you can ask these important questions.



  1. Today is my birthday so it’s a natural take stock day and your porch stories remind me that most of my summers growing up were spent at my grandparents on a farm in the Mississippi Delta. One of my fondest memories, in the midst of many fond memories, is sitting on a sofa with very tall back and sides, feeling very hidden, on their porch which no one else used. As an adult I realize that no one used the porch in the summer because it was 110 degrees (plus) outside; they used it in the spring and fall when I was back in Kentucky for the school year. If the workmen finish repairs to my current porch today then I’ll make my way out there to finish taking stock!

  2. I’ve seen your “porch” and it’s the perfect NYC version of what a porch is meant to be. That night view is to die for. (Oops high balcony, suggestion it’s to “die for” to a mystery writer, don’t go taking me to literally, Laurie!)

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