My friend, Anel, is a chair-loving South African artist living close to The Hague. She loves chairs so much that she bought 40 tall ladder-backs from her church and has challenged herself to paint each seat differently. She has s a gold chair on her business card and another on the sign outside her house. When you visit her for a session (Anel is a talented functional therapist and creative counsellor in addition to being an artist) she gives you a baby-sized chair, hand-painted by her, as a leaving gift. She has her own hashtag #picturemychair and invites those lucky enough to own one of her tiny offspring to place it in meaningful places and share captioned photographs on Instagram. As you can imagine, I simply adore this chair concept and the very next day buried mine in a bouquet of spring flowers and posted it on Instagram as my definition of spring bliss.
When I went to Malaysia last month my chair came too and I loved finding meaningful places for it to sit, because, of course, metaphorically, wherever it goes I can go too in my mind’s eye.
It took about 24 hours for me to decide to introduce my chair to my Writer’s Circle in The Hague, and though some of the writers were somewhat nonplussed by the concept, they all agreed to write about where they might put theirs, were they to have one too.
Interestingly, many of them placed their chair in their happy places, for Siobhan it was on a pier in County Kerry, Ireland, for Anna, it hovered over the ocean, Anne-Lise took hers back to her childhood bedroom. Like Fanny, I took mine to the beach, to the strip of damp sand between the debris of the shoreline and the slurping waves. I turned it so I could face the sun.
For some the chair was an empty chair, reminding them of who was missing from their life, others didn’t like it and didn’t want to play the game. Regardless we were all inspired by Anel’s chair.
If you had a chair, where would you put it?
Where would I put my chair?
I am drawn to the beach,
to a strip of sand that’s darker,
damper, firmer than the rest.
Close to the shoreline – there –
my chair will stand
at a slight angle,
with one back leg upon an upturned cockle shell,
the other wrapped in the lime green froth of seaweed.
No one ever chooses to sit here, no,
they prefer that pale dry sand
where toes can burrow
while fingers dig and fling handfuls of idleness.
My chair prefers to stand out here;
So I sit, face tilted to an evening sun
that stamps a second slender chair
behind me into streaming shadow and
I melt until my neck rests on the sturdy back
so my spine can slump. I sink into this peace,
the rhythm of the slurping waves,
the cruel call of seagulls
and bask in an air that holds no breeze.
But my chair’s unyielding and
the harsh reality of its being
reminds me to be mindful,
to fondle grit beneath my feet until it puddles
into shallow foot-shaped pools.
I simply am.