Early this spring, I put an Adirondack chair in our tiny pocket front garden, so, for the first time in the 23 years we’ve lived here, I could sit outside, at plant level.
The chair was white. It sat beside a big turquoise pot positioned underneath the eaves to catch the runoff when it rains. Just behind the chair I planted a patch of yellow-flowered Corydalis.
My heart cried out for a red chair.
Once again I’d identified something I wanted with the pure longing of a child. I ached for a red chair just like I once ached for a skeleton.
But it was a project.
So was I going to be too busy? Too lazy? Too intimidated by the no-longer-familiar act of painting? Stopped by the first sign of resistance?
Or would I be hobbled by something much more insidious – the fear that if I do get my red chair, I won’t like it, which will somehow prove that I shouldn’t try to do the things I want to, because in the end, it won’t make me happy.
With that thought in mind, I realized that if I didn’t at least try for a red chair, I wouldn’t like myself. So I resolved to tackle it, one small step at a time.
I moved the chair around back and washed it with a hose, leaving a snowfall of white paint flecks on the ground.
Next step: clean that up.
I took the chair up to the back deck and scraped off the remaining loose paint. That yielded a surprising amount of fresh paint litter, considering all the paint that came off in the washing. I scraped thoroughly, and drew the line at sanding.
Then I was out to buy paint.
Oddly enough, there’s a certain opposition in the world to painting a white Adirondack chair red.
Alan didn’t like the idea at first.
“I’ve painted those chairs,” he said. “Do you know how many surfaces they have?”
I do now: six for each piece of wood, giving a rough count of 132 surfaces, total.
The manager in the paint store advised me that painting a white chair red was at worst doomed and at best foolhardy, because I’d need five coats of paint to cover the chair.
“You’ll put the first two coats on and come back here asking why it’s still pink,” he said.
The first coat took about 90 minutes.
It was pleasant on the back deck, warm and shady, with lots of birdsong. Slat after slat went from white to red, slow, repetitive work, with an equally slow thought stream slipping by.
I worked out a piece of writing while I painted. Then I spent some time remembering my Dad, whose hands could do anything from carpentry to car repairs.
He would have sanded.
When I thought that, my chair looked a little rougher. I could see how the old drips of white paint that I hadn’t sanded off would look like drips of red paint, and that the odds of new drips of red paint, given all those surfaces, was very high.
At that moment, I could have been catapulted back into the childhood where I learned not to want things. Sanding is good. Not sanding is bad. Instead, I woke up, and thought, “no judgement.”
Later in the day I flipped the chair over and painted all the places I hadn’t been able to reach when it was right side up.
That was Sunday. It’s Wednesday today. I’ve put on three coats so far, and I’m saying it’s done. Yes, it could use one more coat, but I didn’t sand the chair, and I’m using high gloss paint, so every layer of paint makes the flaws in the chair stand out even more. Besides, we haven’t been able to use the deck since I started painting.
My chair is brilliantly red, glossy, rough, and too wet to sit on until Monday at least. When I put it back in the garden, I noticed the mud spatters on the blue pot, and the fact that the Corydalis needs to double in size before its yellow will really speak to the red and blue.
Is this the chair I imagined when I first longed for a red chair? Close enough.
I like it. I plan to sit quietly in it on summer afternoons and early evenings, doing that most yogic of tasks, waking up.
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A while back, my niece Kris and I started a food blog called Ant & Anise. We’ve been playing around with it for a while, getting a few posts up, and figuring out the details.
But now Kris is in the midst of a 30-day Paleo Diet challenge – which for my bread-loving niece is a long 30 days. So I wanted to give you a heads up, and encourage you to check it out, especially if you’re considering cutting down on processed foods in general, and gluten in particular. So far she’s on day 11, which includes a recipe for Paleo banana bread.
And stay tuned, we’re hatching a plan for a Blackberry Madness series in August, with more blackberry recipes than you can shake a stick at.
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I’ve been struggling to start yoga and came across your blog so downloaded your 5 minute app. I’m up to 20 minutes a day now for 10 days straight! And now I’ve found your blog! Its inspiring. Your red chair seems to me like a metaphor for what I’m trying to do as well… I want it but I am afraid to be imperfect. The guy at the paint store would talk me out of it and if I overcame his objections, my father’s voice telling me I should sand it would have that paint sitting in a cupboard for a year. So congrats to you for getting your beautiful red chair. And thank you for helping me overcome the fear that the skinny beautiful women in their yoga pants at the yoga class will judge me and let me start stretching out my poor tight shoulders and hamstrings in a friendly way. Thank you!!!!
Welcome aboard! Good for you starting your imperfect yoga practice and letting it grow. Keep me posted.
Eve, Congratulations for painting your own RED chair. There are many times, we long for something or doing something but other people don’t seem to understand why we have that longing. Fear not, as long as we act according to our gut feelings, we will achieve what we want. The journey is more important than the destination, like YOGA. The end result might not be picture perfect but every brush stroke/step is a process towards self fulfillment.
I love your chair, it is beautiful…GOOD JOB!
Well, Loura, I was test driving my chair late this afternoon, after the rain let up, and I have to say, it works for me. I can’t wait to see how it pans out in the next few months of sitting outside weather. Thanks for your words of support – I can testify that acting on gut feelings leads to satisfaction.
Eve, that’s what warm cozy blankets are for! I try to sit outside until the snow flies (we live in NE Ohio). When I was recovering from cancer surgery in January (!) 1996, I was drawn to sit on my back porch…in the middle of a 17 deg. F. snowstorm/blizzard. Feeling the cold on my skin and the icy pellets of snow on my face reminded me I was gratefully ALIVE (assuming, of course, that one doesn’t feel the same sensations when one is deceased! :-D). I know now my neighbors thought I had gone insane and perhaps I had….in a good way! Love to you and your red chair!
So Carol, given the weather patterns here, my season of outside sitting is limited not so much by cold as by rain. I have to decide whether or not to bring the chair inside once the rains start in earnest, or at least get it up off the ground, onto the back deck and covered with a tarp. Otherwise I could have a rotted red chair by spring. That’s an amazing account of your blizzard sitting. Funny how in this culture, knowing that you’re alive, and that you might not be tomorrow, seems to count as slightly insane, particularly if you act on the knowledge.
Oh yes, Eve, I put my chairs under cover around October (when our rains begin in earnest) to preserve them as long as possible. As you already know, painting these chairs maybe with multiple coats of paint and with all those slats and “inside edges” is a nightmare and huge time commitment. I didn’t want to repeat it anytime soon! I am loving the saga about your ‘red’ chair! I can feel a delightful children’s book in the making — or perhaps a book for spirit-seeking adults? DO IT! Your writing is magnificent, Eve!
Wish I still had a photo of the chairs I painted lipstick PINK and french blue! Nothing like bright color to lift one’s spirits. I repainted our boring Eddie Bauer forest green chairs after returning from a trip to France. Wouldn’t you know … I had to have the paint store custom mix the colors exactly to the photos I brought I home. Nothing even close existed on their paint charts. I can’t believe how many neighbors I met because of the colors on those chairs (now long gone). They loved it! My new chairs are electric spring green! Your red is lovely and your words even lovelier, Eve. Thank you for sharing.
Carol, your chairs sound inspirational. I especially like that you had to have the colors custom mixed. Thanks for a great story.