Dorch Porch is a soggy ashy mess. QA Porch is nice for first-year girls to get that fresh-baked tan next to the pond after a long winter. But it has long been an unspoken agreement that the porch on the second floor of Calvert Hall is the best porch at St. Mary’s. Of all the residences on campus, Calvert has an unbeatable view of the St. Mary’s River, which provides a sparkly blue backdrop to the charming red-brick Trinity Church and its lush graveyard, green and fertile thanks to its ancient inhabitants. It’s a sight that I will always be pining for after I graduate this year.
One of the main highlights of my sophomore year, when I lived amongst the creaking stairways and rotund windows of Calvert Hall, was the strong but strange community forged amongst the Hall’s residents by virtue of their collective use of the Porch. In comparison to the formality of the first-floor of Calvert which houses many administrative office, the second floor porch formed the building’s seedy upper-world. On any day in any weather, one was always likely to find a friendly face, a listening ear, or a free cigarette waiting for the Porch.
The complexities of language when used in the pursuit of love. The drudgeries and affirming joys of life. Magic the Gathering. Every topic was fair game among the Porch-dwellers. We even made up a game called “porch ball.” The premise was to knock around one of those cheap bouncy balls that you’d find at Walmart for as long as possible and to keep it in the air by any means possible. The only rule was that if the ball fell off the Porch into the bushes below, whoever touched the ball last had to retrieve it. And the game would continue.
I found the Porch endearing simply for its shabbiness in contrast with the glorious beauty of its surroundings. Three sagging couches that had seen better days (two the kind with wooden arms provided by res-life, and one plush but cigarette-scarred lazy-boy recliner whose origin has been lost to the ages) circled a small weathered tree stump splashed with painted color whose function doubled as a table and footrest. The sill of a window looking out to the porch directly behind one of the couches is painted win blue with the phrase “but for the sky there are no fences facing.” Certainly, the Calvert Porch was an environment in which the residents of the hall felt relaxed and uninhibited.
The Porch itself, and not just its people, has always been like a reliable friend to me. One Sunday morning around 4 am, I was awoken by a nauseating feeling as a college student is wont to feel on a Sunday morning. My first instinct was to get some fresh air. I pushed open the door to the porch, the one with the screen peeling out of its frame, and I was immediately overtaken by the cool rush of breath from the river silvery in the cloudy early morning light, providing some much-needed comfort. I drank in that air like water. In that instance, my senses were fully present in taking in where I was and how second by second my mind and body were being benefited and grounded by the crushing sound and sight of the trees surrounding the church swirling their leafy skirts.
It saddens me to see that those couches that had provided the setting for many memorable conversations are now gone. They have been replaced with hard, unfeeling lawn chairs. Whenever I revisit the old stomping grounds, it feels like a different place. It has been the end of an era. “Calvert Porch was a crucial element in my growth as a member of the St. Mary’s community. It made me the man I am today,” said senior Mike Harp, who was one of my Porch-compadres. “But we need to bring those couches back.”
According to our Web Editor Dillon Swensen, who took refuge in Calvert during the Great Mold Plague of ’12, the Calvert Porch “tastes of nostalgia. And hope. It gave me a home when I had none, and a sense of community when I was still a floundering freshmen. But without the couches that once dwelled there, it feels so plastic. So artificial. Like all the joy has been leeched from the world. I miss those ratchet-ass couches. Where else are we supposed to stub out our cigarettes?” It is my sincere hope, and a personal goal of mine, to take up an alumni fundraising campaign to purchase brand new couches for the Calvert Porch. Over the years, I hope that they will fray and stain into a beautiful patchwork of life that will prove that they were used and loved to bits by many generations of students. The students will come and go; but porches, arguably, will stand the test of time.