What I Shed Today

lightening up a little at a time

ladderback side chair

on September 5, 2014

day one of the WIST chair shed-a-thon

I tried to shed a chair today. I didn’t succeed. Still, I celebrate the attempt to free myself of it.

Possessions, I’m realizing, are just that. By bringing or accepting one into my personal sphere of causality, I invest some of my life into it—my “spirit,” if you’ll allow a metaphysical term—I possess it. But that transaction is mirrored: the possession then has some claim on me. Maybe this is metaphor, maybe not. In Steps to an Ecology of Mind, Gregory Bateson brilliantly asked and analyzed, “Just where is ‘mind’ in a system?” It’s obvious, once you see … it all its parts.

By my mid-fifties, I became possessed by enough stuff that I began to feel rather scattered. I’ve comprehended that only a radical commitment to a course of dis-possessions can help me recover my center. But perhaps I should digress. It doesn’t do to speak of this too seriously. Wouldn’t want to make anyone nervous.

I possessed this chair in a southside Chicago alley about 25 years ago as it sat in front of a dumpster in a “take me, I’m yours” pose. Its woven rush seat was broken along one side, and it had been repainted a vivid yellow and orange. Nimue and I had just married and were a little short of chairs. Even then, I didn’t lack projects. But I thought we could strip off the brazen colors and get a seat on it one Saturday afternoon.

I’m really lousy at estimating how long a job will require. I wanted all the paint off so we could stain the wood, but it was as tough as baked-on enamel. It took me years to accept that defeat. At some point, I recall, I read a pamphlet about how to weave a seat and ordered paper rush, but ground squirrels found and ate it before I made a single pass.

"You'll not be rid of me that easily. I'm not finished yet."

“You’ll not be rid of me that easily. I’m not finished yet.”

It’s a chair, but I’ve never sat in it. Every time we moved, however, the chair moved with us. Isn’t that … possession?

But no more, I thought this week. Through a craigslist exchange I met a woman who buys distressed furniture, repairs and refinishes it, and sells it in her shop. (She took our art-deco coffee table for a buck.) “Stephanie,” I e-mailed her, “I have chairs, same terms!” But alas, she’s covered up with plenty to work on already.

Maybe someone else will want a possession—er, I mean, project.

shedding style: give away
destination: one of the usual channels

Comments welcome … psst! want a chair? Make you a good deal!

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2 responses to “ladderback side chair

  1. […] the ladderback side chair, this fiddleback chair entered our lives in our newlywed year. I bought it at a rummage sale at our […]

  2. […] nose flute nevertheless. But not to deny myself fun—it’s that reducing the quantity of my possessions has become urgent to asserting my […]

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