“The Sanskrit word for asana means seat. Seat means connection with the earth. Earth means all beings and all things.”
The Art of Yoga
The earliest recollection of my connection to a seat is when I played musical chairs at my friend, Anne's, birthday party. I was seven years old. It upset me to wrestle for a place to sit when the music stopped, knowing there was one less chair available. What I discovered at a young age was that I did not want to struggle for a seat; I simply wanted to sit down and look around me. In Anne’s backyard, there were the most beautiful cream-colored roses that grew wild over her backyard fence. Fighting for the seat made no sense. The roses would have been a different story.
I invite you to COME SIT BY ME.
Come close and you will recognize the seats in my life as similar to those in yours and you will remember your stories as I have remembered mine. Seats trigger my most provocative moments. A certain chair, bench, stool or step reminds me of what I have seen, where I have been, and whom I have loved.
Seats are the catalyst for my stories. The physical structure guides me to the memory. Where I sit, whether by choice or default, frames what I see. Although it might be impressive for me to claim discovery of the images on the following pages, I must bow to the seats themselves because it is they who, in most cases, found me. Turning the corner on a walk in Ravello, Italy, I was overjoyed with the image of neatly placed chairs set for an outdoor concert. The story, “Parade of Chairs,” evokes this image of an audience ready to listen and to watch and enjoy whatever dances before them as they sit and observe. Although the physical description of the actual chairs in the story differs from the photograph, the emotion is the same-anticipation resulting in appreciation. The photo evokes the memory.
I began to write stories as I remembered them, connecting each story to a seat in my life. This framework organized my thoughts. Originally, the image came first. Later, as my vision grew, stories encircled the seats, continuing the theme, allowing the seat to play an equal part in the remembering.
Images of seats in a variety of settings introduce the chapters. Come and sit. Dream a little and you will remember feelings from yesterday. Pause, and you may imagine tomorrow’s.
Some of my stories spring from where I watched the world. In “Grandma’s Rocking Chair,“ my grandmother and I saw the world together as she rocked me in the front window of her living room, looking outside to life in the city. In “The Student Desk,” the seat’s structure and design were significant. The seat gave me a place to hide under its hollowed out frame. In “The City Chair,” the seat spoke to me of my Uncle Joe's health. Whether it was on the front porch or set on the back landing by the kitchen, I knew what kind of day my Uncle was having. Its placement was significant.
At times, my fixation has been less about the actual seat and more about what I saw from where I sat. The seat changes its value in each story. In “Chair In the Corner,” it is a starring player that waits for my mother. In “Garden Seat,” it has a secondary role that helps me see things anew, as I sit in the far corner of my yard looking back at my home. “Seats In A Circl” springboard the story, defining kindness and compassion, gifts I needed desperately when I was a young graduate student clinging to a dream.
Seats command my attention.
As I wrote, I wondered what it was that influenced my affinity to seats. I was delighted to find Maya Gimbutas’s book, The Language of the Goddess. On the cover is a picture of a Paleolithic pre-historic figure in a seated position. According to Gimbutas's research, the birth-giving posture was sitting. The enthroned goddess from as far back as 6000 B.C. sits on a birth seat as she waits for a life to be born. There is also a terracotta figure found in 4500B.C. that symbolizes longevity through the sitting position posture. Then there is the pregnant goddess, found seated, with her hands resting on her large abdomen. With the discovery of these pre-historic figures, I discovered a pattern. I understood how I connected my stories through the pauses-the sitting-the expectations that followed rest. As I remembered stories, the seats gave them order. They directed me from moment to moment, memory to memory, revisiting their emotions.
A seat has a personality without a heartbeat.
A vacant chair often makes me feel lonely. After my father died, as I backed down the driveway, I watched my mother wave to me from the kitchen table, seated across from where my father used to sit. When I walk the boardwalk in Spring Lake, a small Jersey seashore town where I was married over thirty years ago, I see loneliness dotted with great joy. There are printed plaques on the back of benches announcing the names of couples joined together for fifty years. They tell of a favorite spot where a pair enjoyed the sit and perhaps took time to exchange a gentle touch as they watched the waves, steady and constant.
When I stop and sit, even for a moment, I take notice. There are times when I prefer not to see what is there and I close my eyes. When I open them again, I look around and pause. I hope after you read COME SIT BY ME, a seat will take on significance as a place to pause and to remember before you move on to another beginning.
I sit down
To fill myself
And when I am full
I stand up