Book cover: Rebuilding The Front Porch of America: Essays on the art of community making by Patrick Overton, Ph.D.

Rebuilding The Front Porch of America: Essays on the art of community making by Patrick Overton, Ph.D.

Two years ago, Bitterroot Mountain Publishing believed this book deserved a wider audience and contacted Patrick Overton with an invitation to reissue the book. The author accepted the invitation and prepared the book.  The essays remained the same, but two new poems were added (one at the front and one at the end of the book).  In addition, there was a short Author’s 2017 Addition to the Preface and a 2017 Afterword written by the Author entitled Art, Creativity, and Essence of Place.

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Signed Twentieth Anniversary Reissue

A Selection From the 2017 Afterword by the Author

Coming Home

Before I bring this Afterword to a close there are a few final things I want to share. First, in 2011, after having been gone from Boonville for 32 years, Lindi and I have returned, once again choosing Boonville as the place where we want to live.

And, as if that isn’t full circle enough, in 2013 I was called once again to serve as minister of the Arrow Rock Federated Church, returning to the first church I served after being ordained in 1976. Every day I discover how powerful an influence these two communities had on my life and my work and I have fallen in love with them all over again. I am also learning from them how my years of living and working with the people of these communities impacted me.

The citizens of Boonville and Arrow Rock continue to remind me that the dual core values of “respecting individuality and honoring community” are what make our nation great – but only as long as we keep them in balance. When we add to this the commitment  to promote self-expression and self-determination, we have all the ingredients needed to helping our nation fulfill its vision of being a beacon to the world. This is the map we are all looking for.

This is why I titled this Afterword Art, Creativity, and Essence of Place. I have learned community is about how we connect to a place; how we use art and creativity to cultivate the resources of that place (especially the people), and, how we interact with each other in a caring and constructive way to contribute to the place in which we live. I believe this is the art of community making and placemaking at its best.

Art is story. It is the story that helps us understand who we are and how we got to be where we are. It is also the source of the never-ending curiosity and longing that has always driven us as a nation, compelling us to want to see the next new thing waiting just over the hill or around the bend, anticipating what is just ahead of us that we can’t quite yet see. Art is the authentic voice that reveals to us our essence of place.

The River

Rivers don’t run straight.
They wander, wind, turn on a whim –
curve undeterred by rock or dirt
or any previous pattern established
some other spring.

As rivers grow, a natural symmetry unfolds,
relationships revealed as rapid currents flow,
forge pathways based on shared geography.
Two things in one place – essential balance
of give and take in shared space.

When not driven by spring-intensity, rivers do not rush,
reveal no urgency to reach their self-determined destination,
seem content to move in slow, summer, serpentine swirls,
sculpting rainbow-misted waterscapes along the way
like potters shape their clay.

It was like this, in the beginning, before we came,
before we took control, imposed our will and way,
before we dammed its force,
transformed the river’s natural course,
upset the fragile harmony of nature and humanity,
denying salmon their genetic destiny.

We must learn to love the river, we have no choice,
it is part of who we are, together –
a shared geography for all of us,
a common space shaped by common force.

We must also learn the lessons rivers share,
a simple wisdom found within their constant flow,
relationships begun when water’s journey
starts from source to sea and back again,
the story each and every one of us must know –
the truth that all the rivers tell:

     my river is your river – what happens to the one,
     will, to the other, happen as well.

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Signed Twentieth Anniversary Reissue