June 2, 2018 10:03:01 PM
In most of gardening, some things are more practical than other more subtle pleasures.
That said, it may be time to put a bounce in your swing.
There's nothing quite like a porch swing to get you outside where all the senses can kick in and you relax enough to start noticing little stuff. You'll hear birds and evening frog songs, smell flowers and fresh-mowed lawns, see the flicker of distant "heat" lightning, feel the breeze, and enjoy the comfort of family and friends.
But when I was a kid, I knew better than to disturb my father whenever his gaze drifted off into the distance while he was swaying quietly to and fro on his big porch swing, because he usually had a genesis of an inventive idea going on.
The college professor, holder of patents to cutting-edge robots and the computers that managed them, mentally fleshed out most of his unique creations with one hand on the nearest suspension chain; he spent so many hours there his upper arm literally grew around the chain, developing a permanent deep dent in the muscle.
Over the years, Dad outlasted two of the S-hooks that supported the chains. Slowly ground them down, wearing them clean through, setting him on the floor. Twice.
All you had to do to join him was back up towards it until it gently scooped you up in such a smooth motion with so little disturbance he would hardly notice, much less spill his drink. A mere nod of the head was enough to get his heavy swing moving quietly with a just-audible sigh, either forward and backward or even a little side to side.
And amazingly it was just fast enough to confound the 'skeeters, which couldn't attack a moving target.
Over the years we had lots of quiet murmuring conversations, during one of which he explained why his swing was so much more relaxing than Granny's, whose small A-frame contraption out in the side yard was too frenetic, squeaking rapidly back-and-forth on its short chain and kinda wobbly, preventing anyone from sitting in it easily once it got going.
He said "the period of the arc is proportional to the radius of the circle." Other words, the longer the chain, the longer the swing took to complete a cycle. So to this day every time I start to sit in a swing, I look up to calculate whether it will be a slow, smooth relaxation or a jerky roller coaster.
A dear garden friend from Crawford recently wrote to me that "times change, people change, but, like the porch swing, there are some things that just need to be brought forward into the present. Both to recreate the peace they brought us in our younger days, and to share this peaceful pastime with those who never experienced it so they can grow some memories too ... "
This week I tried to get a leg up on even my dear old Dad, in the form of a pair of shiny oversized springs made specifically for porch swings. Strong enough to support the weight of the swing and at least three passengers, but resilient enough to add a sweet little bounce. Not anything sexy, just a cushion of comfort that can't be described. You gotta experience it to understand.
Only trouble is, turns out I made the swing chain long enough to suit my short legs, causing visitors' feet to drag on the deck. So Dad remains the undisputed king of swings.
Here's to a resurgence in porches and swings with long chains. And bouncy swing springs.
Oh, and if you are interested in learning about three really cool garden saints including Proculus, patron saint of garden swings, check out "Swinging Saints" on my blog.
Felder Rushing is a Mississippi author, columnist, and host of the "Gestalt Gardener" on MPB Think Radio. Email gardening questions to [email protected]