Before we built our log home, we decided that our front porch would face west, so that someday, we'd be able to sit and enjoy watching the setting sun lazily drop behind the ridge on the other side of the canyon in which we live. Now, twelve years later, while sitting on two old plastic lawn chairs, the view is quite pleasant and very relaxing. Directly in front of the chairs is an old coffee table that was custom built out of driftwood and left to us by my father-in-law, Lud Williams.

With feet propped up on the table, we look directly west, through a long section of large spaced wire fencing that extends across the entire length of the porch that is almost completely covered in sprawling rose bush. Just beyond the rose bush, stands a mulberry tree that was planted almost twenty years ago and now shades us from the hot afternoon sun with its large green leaves. Surrounding the mulberry tree, is a small landscaped green area consisting of medium sized pine and Chinese elm trees, two lilac bushes, vinca, bunch grass, lambs ear, pyracntha, mint and other assorted types of vegetation. An elevated bird feeder and two hand crafted wind chimes, kind of finish off the scene. A split rail fence, about thirty feet/yards away from the porch, separates the landscaped area from our dirt driveway.

On the other side of the driveway, and about thirty yards directly west of the porch, is a feed and watering site where we watch desert animals come to visit during the late afternoon and early morning hours. These animals include quail, cottontail rabbits, jack rabbits, coyotes, hawks, snakes and all kinds of other assorted high desert related birds and critters. About half way down to the feeding area and off to the right, is the flagpole that frequently displays our nations flag.

Recently, our American flag was flown at half-mast, in tribute and memory to the nine firefighters who were killed while battling a warehouse fire in North Carolina. It was also flown at half mast for the fire fighters who died fighting the Esperanza Fire and for those fire fighters and other brave men and women, who lost their lives during 9/11. There is a "brotherhood" amongst fire fighters and I must admit that as a retired fire captain, looking from our front porch at our nation's flag flying at half-mast, there have been many memories relived, prayers prayed and tears shed for all of those who have paid the ultimate price. But no matter how the flag is flown, it's always out of respect for our country and for the two most important things that it represents, which are liberty and freedom.

More than any other words that represent America are the two words "liberty" and "freedom". There have been many attempts to define the word "freedom" but sadly to say, even after consulting a dictionary for its many definitions, all of them seem vastly inadequate in describing its true meaning. On a daily basis, I feel that most Americans passively immerse themselves into freedom, while failing to recognize its very presence. One of the most meaningful ways to interpret its importance or to truly understand and respect its value, is to visit one of our many war memorial sites. It's upon these hallowed grounds, where we should all try to solemnly digest, contemplate and reflect, upon the sacrifice of the hundreds of thousands of lives that were given, and the lives that continue to be spent in defense of our precious heritage. The costs for our freedoms remain tremendously high and as I become older, I seem to appreciate its value more and more. Now, as I look up the flag from our front porch and through the branches of the mulberry tree, there is instilled within me, a sense of devout patriotism mixed with pride and reverence. But the porch is not just the place for thought of patriotism and freedom - for its design, purpose and atmosphere, chiefly depend on the mood and character of its occupier.

For the most part, porches are self imposed environments. They are places for memories, love, laughter, tears, admiration, fear and sorrow. Except for its exposure to the elements, it's nothing more that a physical extension of the house and a place that openly represents the atmosphere within the home.

Porches are places made for everyone. They're place to "let your hair down," (if you're lucky enough to have some) and "get your dander up." Places for laughs and tears, sobs and cheers. Places where you can take a swing at the politics of the day, or sit in a pew or preach from a pulpit. In conclusion, your porch can be whatever place you want it to be. As for me and my porch, it's a place for refection, memories, prayer, solitude and silence; a place to count my blessings and a place from which to continually thank God for my family, friends and the country that I live in.

For your comments and thoughts: "STAR" COMMENTS@wwwmindofbob.com