Ruth’s Porch

Scribble Sisters Celebrate and Give Thanks for the Use of a Porch

Ruth Olsson’s porch in Shaftsbury was home to the Scribble Sisters’ meetings for May through early November this year of still-worrisome Covid-19 breakouts.

To thank Ruth for her kindness in letting the writing group assemble on her porch twice a month, the group has created a mini-collection of stories, poems, and meditations, most of them beginning with the same first-line writing prompt: “I couldn’t settle down until I sank into the cushioned chair on Ruth’s screened-in porch.”

They are shared with you below:


by Suzanne Kirkpatrick

I couldn’t settle down until I sat down in the cushioned chair on Ruth’s screened in porch. I luxuriated in the relaxing feeling the cushions provided-they helped distance me from the terror l had just experienced. Slowly I calmed down. It helped comfort me to be in a place I had enjoyed many times surrounded by people liked and respected. It also helped that those people probed to find out why I had entered looking pale and jumpy. I might not have shared the frightening experience I had just had, but Kathy began the interrogation.

“We’ll, Suzanne, we have all been waiting a few minutes for you to look a little bit like your normal self. Now I would like to know what has you all riled up. Did you have a run in with Virginia? Is the FBI following you? What.”

“Yes,” Thea echoed. “I think we all noticed that you looked terrified when you came in. What happened to you?”

I looked around at all the encouraging faces, wondered if they would believe me or send me off to The Brattleboro Retreat if I told them the truth. I didn’t know how they could believe it, or if I did really believe it! It was so—unbelievable! I looked from face to face, each person concerned and caring. After several seconds, I decided to share my experience and trust that they would set aside their judgements.

“Well, nothing seemed at all unusual at the start of my trip here except that I was by myself since Berta had to work and Sherry had decided that our group was not for her. As I yielded onto 7A, I thought I was seeing blinking lights out of the corners of my eyes. At first, I tried to ignore them, but as the lights became brighter and brighter, I could no longer ignore, and I was having a hard time driving. Slowly the flashes began moving to my right, still distracting me. Shortly, the lights began twirling round and round in the passenger seat and I started seeing a weird figure coming into view. The lights slowly faded but the figure gained substance and vividness. As this was happening, I was still driving, although not always in a straight line. The creature began to look somewhat like the Joker sporting a fiendish grin. I didn’t know whether to pull off the road or not. I didn’t know what to do, but decided that all I wanted to do was get to my destination, Ruth’s house, where I expected to find some reasonably sane people who might be able to help me out.”

As I approached West Road in Shaftsbury, he said in a guttural voice, “You need to turn into West Road!” I decided quickly, though I was terrified, my heart was banging in my chest, that I was not going to do as he demanded. I felt that if I did as he said I would be pulled into a place I didn’t want to be. He began yelling as we approached West Road,”Slow down! Turn here! Turn here,” his voice rising to a screech. He grabbed the wheel and tried to turn it, pushing with amazing strength, yelling at the top of his voice. I don’t know I was able to keep the car going straight. I was grateful that no cars were coming toward us. He slowly got car into the left lane just a bit, yelling louder and louder and louder. . .. Suddenly he swirled away, no longer pushing the wheel but swirling back into a circle of little lights, and then he was gone. I slowed the car and searched in the rear-view mirror. No sign of him—- it.

I made it to Ruth’s house, but I was drained, and my heart was beating irregularly. It was so good to see welcome faces and that lovely back porch. I couldn’t really relax until I settled into a cushioned chair and began talking to friends. We ended up writing that day, giving different explanations for what had happened to me.


by Nancy Schoerke
The Rabbit Hole

I couldn’t settle down until I sank into the cushioned chair on Ruth’s screened porch.
I kept sinking into the cushion. It felt so good. Before long I realized that I had gone down a rabbit hole. I was tumbling down a dark tunnel that smelled like earthy soil. My arms and legs were bumping into the walls as I somersaulted through the tunnel down the rabbit hole.

Finally, I landed on a bed of soft, sweet-smelling green grass. While I lay there, catching my breath, I noticed a curious sound. What is it? The sound of soft giggles and laughter. Gradually my eyes adjust to the light. It isn’t little people. it is little bunnies! Well, of course, what else would one expect to see at the bottom of a rabbit hole?

When someone says they are going down a rabbit hole, or that they went down a rabbit hole, I wonder what they expect to find. Might there be something besides adorable little fluffy bunnies at the bottom of a rabbit hole….


by Kathy Wagenknecht

I couldn’t settle down until I sank into the cushioned chair on Ruth’s screened-in porch.

I was frazzled. I had been constantly in motion since the phone woke me at 4:03 am. A old friend in another time-zone called with upsetting news, and I had much to do before the next call, planned for tomorrow morning.

But for just a minute, I could sit. In the calm.

The light breeze lifts the yellow leaves piling them against the trunks of other trees.

I had to locate people. Specific people. Listed at 4:03 am and written down on a stray piece of paper next to the phone. (Why was a parking receipt from a garage in Oslo near my phone? Or near me?)

I rose quickly, digging through address books and websites. Finding contact info for those names I’d listed. I could start right away with email and text, wait until sunup for phone calls. Delivering news — difficult, maybe dangerous. I’d be careful. I’d move around. Be hard to trace.

The light breeze lifts the yellow leaves piling them against the trunks of other trees.

Virtual Private Networks. Changing cellular towers and carriers. Moving. Moving. Delivering a message. Moving again. Checking off the list.

This one I deliver as a traveling minister — I send off an email and disappear into the strategically placed van. I drive straight for Ruth’s Porch, knowing what I’d find.

The light breeze lifts the yellow leaves piling them against the trunks of other trees.

I reluctantly leave the porch, and trudge forward, keeping to my task, despite my misgivings and exhaustion.

This last message I deliver now, to you. “Wait on Ruth’s Porch. Watch for the sign: a light breeze lifting yellow leaves piling them against the trunks of other trees.”


by Marianne DeKoven

I couldn’t settle down until I sank into the cushioned chair on Ruth’s screened porch. I knew that, once there, I’d be able to write. Writing at home can be difficult. There are so many chores, so many computer distractions: email, news, Wordle, googling things I suddenly want to know about. Those google results often contain links to too many other topics of interest. I have to pick up my granddaughter from school, or go to a doctor’s appointment, or shop for groceries: endless interruptions of the day.

Ruth’s porch is peaceful. I can look out at the trees, and dream. There’s a magnificent weeping willow that goes up into the sky, an evergreen, and a variety of the denizens of New England’s deciduous forests. There are birds to hear and see. Breezes come and go through the screens that keep the bugs out. A fan on the ceiling can stir the air if the breezes aren’t blowing. Skylights prevent cloudy days from feeling dim, and they multiply the light when the sun is shining. The roof mitigates too hot a sun.

With me on the porch are the women of Scribble Sisters. Writing with them in the concentrated quiet is like group meditation. It’s a community of effort, of creative power flowing around among us. I can look down at Ruth’s softly gray porch floor, and see all our sneakers and sandals, or I can look out at the woods and imagine running up the little hill and perhaps seeing all the way North to Camelback. A skinny paper birch makes a diagonal white stroke across the middle of my view. I can stare at the round wicker table which I covet. Sometimes it has food on it; sometimes the food and drink are on the larger table. A sudden bird speaks, then holds its peace.



by Althea Church
Afternoons on Ruth’s “Perfect Porch”

I couldn’t settle down until I sank into the cushioned chair on Ruth’s screened porch, for conversation with a friendly and fun group of women, and afterwards a little creative writing. Varied and interesting prose and poems have come out of Ruth’s porch the past two summers. Covid forced us outside, but Ruth’s comfortable porch was so conducive to organizing our thoughts and pens that we asked if it could be our regular summer home in 2022.

It’s a Perfect Porch – screened, no pesky bugs of any kind. And so well placed by the builder – the house’s front orientation is west, but the back porch faces east, looking at woodlands and keeping us cool on some very hot summer afternoons. It is picturesque – a glance into the woods while gathering thoughts allows minds room to roam those woods in search of a word, phrase, or idea.

After 30-60 minutes of lively conversation, we usually get down to the business of writing, inspired by a prompt or two, or simply to work on a project previously started. Many “Scratchings” began their journey on Ruth’s porch, where readings and suggestions helped sharpen a story for eventual publication, or not.

On one of our last meetings on the porch, the gathering was simply too congenial, with refreshments and fun conversation, and so relaxed that…..we decided not to write, just this once! Cold weather has forced us once more into member homes or Zoom meetings, but fond memories of scribbling on Ruth’s porch will keep us warm until next May when we can resume our sweet, and productive, time on Ruth’s Perfect Porch.

Thank you, Ruth, for your generosity and hospitality these many months.


by Judy Kniffin

I couldn’t settle down until I sank into a cushioned chair on Ruth’s screened-in porch. A month had gone by, and it seems so difficult in these modern times to quietly focus on anything. Traffic is incessant and fast, often with car windows open and music blaring. People out walking engage audibly in cellphone conversation…or move rhythmically with ears plugged into music. Shops vying for our attention hang out signs visually shouting “OPEN”—or play loud music as we walk by. The clothing and hair styles of the younger men and women rush past us, fairly screaming “LOOK AT ME—I’m SEXY…or just plain WEIRD!! And of course, there’s always radio and TV in our homes. My senses seem endlessly pummeled by all of this visual and aural onslaught.

Ahhh…but then my car turns off Route 7A, and suddenly the blare and visual assault has shifted into gentle birdsong, leaves rustling in the breeze, and perhaps an occasional squirrel scuttling across in search of nuts and seeds. I park my car in your driveway, walk to your back porch, choose my chair and settle down to intelligent conversation with good friends; to the familiar invitation to turn our thoughts toward communicating the inspirational, the gentle and oft times funny aspects of our aging lives.

Phew—it has almost been too long! But we’re here again. Thanks so much for your generous hospitality, even in your absence. We look forward to your being with us again—in body as well as in spirit!




by Wilma Ann Johnson

I could not get settled until I arrived in Shaftsbury and sat down in the cushioned chair on Ruth’s screened in porch.

It was our sanctuary during warm pandemic afternoons. We could socialize, share a snack, listen to bird song, start writing and feel safe when maskless. A semi-circle of trees surrounded it providing shade and sometimes a gentle breeze.

I am so thankful to Ruth for providing this refuge for the last two summers. She is a special Scribble Sister.


by Susan Blandy
On the Porch

The walnut tree’s yellow leaves
Flutter to the ground
Like gold finches or butterflies
Going the wrong direction.

Soar! I command, but I know
October cannot be delayed
In its mission to strip the trees.

At least we are given the colors,
The brilliant sunset colors
That underlay the green all summer.

Still, for me, that is not
bribe enough to comfort me
As I stack wood for the winter
And take the leaves into the compost.
I leave the bright carpets,
The circles of color
Under the trees.

Summertime on the Porch

I planned to have breakfast at 8
But I had to get the bills in today’s mail.
So I planned to have breakfast at 9
But I had to get the laundry started:
sorted, spotted, checked for mending.
Then I planned to have breakfast at 10
But I forgot to make fresh coffee last night
So this will be teatime with a scone
I meant to have breakfast by 11
But the mail came with a long letter from my sister
And a new crossword puzzle
Surely I will have breakfast for lunch.

And now, with half the day gone,
My plans and cares sit crowded noisily around my table,
Conversing loudly
And sometimes rising to say
Choose Me! Me! Me!


by Berta Winiker

News and updates on Ruth were frequent on her porch. Who’s been in touch with her, how she’s doing, wish she was here with us. How lucky are we to have this great sheltered space, enough room to keep some distance between us. We checked in about who might want us to wear a mask still, who had been exposed, symptoms/no symptoms. Who brought refreshments, who’s offering a prompt, let’s rein in chat after an hour.

I was able to attend more frequently this summer and looked forward to the leafy setting, the comfy chairs, the chatter and catching up. I felt more comfortable with the group, especially after helping to organize our first live book launch.

I looked back in my archive of saved messages (I am so guilty of that) to see that I had communicated with Ruth early in the summer. I had wished her well with health concerns and wondered whether I had met her. She reminded me that we had several times and that I had to rush off to work. She said she had been a librarian at the Philadelphia Free Library. I would love to talk with her more about the City of Brotherly Love. I spent a week there about forty years ago taking in the Mummers Day Parade and visiting numerous museums including the Rodin.

I was able to read all the Scratchings this summer. I was interested in learning more about the Scribble Sisters. I wonder if Ruth is clad in black pants as I write this.

The chairs on the porch have been pushed back from the elements. We were careful to remove our used paper goods. Thanks for the memories, the last day there was particularly gorgeous with the leaves strutting their stuff. Hope to meet up with you again, Ruth.