The tiny old house I live in — and adore: it’s this model from the Sears Catalog — has a little sunporch attached to its east side. From the looks of things it was added long after the house was built in 1925. It has thin modern steel single-hung windows painted in a white enamel running its full length, and no insulation except for a bit of padding under its sage-green indoor-outdoor carpet. I love it immoderately. I am out here whenever weather permits, aided by a ceiling fan for hot days and a space heater to get me well into the fall. It’s always a sad time for me when the Chicagoland winter descends and I have to close it up for a few months.
This time of year it’s at its best. I open the bamboo blinds in the morning to let the warming sunshine in, though later in the day I close them because I like the privacy and, more, the filtered light. When we bought a new sofa a few years ago we banished our old beat-up one out here, where it has become my favorite place to read. I also keep a small writing desk wedged in a corner — I’m sitting at it right now, in a cheap molded plastic chair — but reading is, to me, what this space is essentially for. When I lie on the sofa I look north into my back yard, where the branches of a silver maple hang just outside both the northern and eastern windows. The sunporch is at ground level on the front but the yard drops off so that the northeastern corner is about fifteen feet up and therefore right in the midst of the maple’s branching. It’s like reading in a treehouse.
All along the eastern side, when the branches move slightly, I see them through the slats of the bamboo as though watching a film. The northern exposure is through windows only: I see the leaves directly. In the late afternoon the sun shines on them. As I write they are just beginning to be tinged with yellow. For me this is the ideal place to read and, equally, the ideal place to set a book down and daydream for a while.
Recently I have discovered a new pleasure here: reading on an iPad. I’ll bring it out after dinner and lie down on the sofa and fall into a book. As evening descends, I don’t have to turn on a light: I read by the light of the screen, dimming it for comfort as darkness deepens. The leaves continue to move in their gentle figures, but less and less discernibly. The house is quiet and the world is calm. Night deepens, and tree-frogs sing. The reader becomes the book. Technology is not always the enemy of the good, old things.