Garden Chairs in CV-19 Times

Here I sit, in the garden of the Tower next to the casita where I live. In front of me are multiple items about which could be written entire stories, maybe even books. As I scan my surroundings, before I get to the dracaena, the wandering Jews climbing over the adobe walls, or before I confirm that a squirrel has not molested the pomegranates hanging overhead, I look at the wooden coffee table.

Once in the table’s life, varnish shined over all of it. Now, only the four wooden legs share any such history. Now the top, with two square glass pieces covering a wood design, is weathered, matching with the garden décor.

My legs touch the table as I sit here gazing, writing, thinking, being. My fellow Zoom writers in four other countries, write their memoirs, novels, cookbooks, stories or how-to books. I’ll reconnect with them in a couple of hours but for now, I am here. I. Am. Here. Just here, doing what comes naturally to me, breathing, writing, being.

A white wrought iron, high backed chair, looking more like it belongs in India than Mexico, sits across from me. If I had more anal retentiveness, I’d get up, walk to it and turn its round, floral cushion around so the zipper did not face me. But I’m not possessed with such qualities. Moving the cushion can happen when I am ready to leave. The fancy, curvy chair reminds me of ones I saw sitting on the Villa Isabel’s front porch as my bus whirled past its corner in Guayaquil. I still love the characters I created from the Villa Isabel, but they’ve remained sitting in my computer, not on anyone else’s screen.

Left and right of me are the sturdy and comfortable for lounging but not for serious work, Mexican metal and plastic strip chairs. Practical they are but not my first choice for garden furniture.

And then…then there are two other chairs.

One arrived here a few months ago, perhaps among the ugliest chairs I have seen anywhere. I wanted to hide it so I didn’t have to see the hideous creature when I looked out my bedroom window, but it was not mine to hide.

Folk sitting on this two-foot high wooden chair perch their bottoms on a straw rope seat. The uniqueness of the chair design, weird enough for a chair museum, is that at three of the chair’s four corners, the legs extending upward another eighteen inches. Connected to those are carved wooden slats, making it neither an armchair nor the basic dining chair with a seat and back.

It’s a chair which requires a decision.

When you encounter most chairs, you have a decision to make. Do you sit in it or do you not sit in it? This chair requires an additional decision, perhaps it might be called a sub-decision or secondary decision if one is a chair or ergonomic designer. Actually, there are multiple decisions which the potential sitter must make.

The decision is: which side of the chair to you put your back? Your legs? Do you put your left leg on the left side, your right leg on the right side? How do you arrange your back, leaning to one side or the other? It may be more comfortable for you if you are of the rotund body variety, a bit like a Bolero sculpture, whereby you can sink into the back, fat rolling on either side of the seat.

Perhaps it was designed for such a corpulent man, one who used the chair when he negotiated deals or snapped at his eldest son when he learned of the son’s misbehaviors. A black-haired middle-aged beauty, a widow dressed from head to toe in mourning, might also have enjoyed the chair, leaning her back against one side, resting her right arm on the other as she took tea with friends. Quite Victorian, I imagine.

Somehow, over the months as I’ve seen this chair, a monstrosity I once thought, I’ve come to tolerate it. Having been left sitting in the Spring downpours, the straw seat is beginning to fray as bougainvillea leaves start covering it.

As the gardener and I have moved it from time to time, it now huddles next to the remaining and ugliest chair of all in this garden. This chair has homely cousins around the world in several colors but none so obnoxious as the white ones. It is the ubiquitous white plastic armchair, the kind loved by people looking for a cheap place for them and their guests to sit, usually outdoors. Practical these chairs are as they are tolerably sturdy, lightweight and easy to ship or move and although they are rarely cleaned, they are easy to wipe the dirt off them.

My complaint about poor soulless chairs? Aesthetics. They are ugly, ugly, ugly. If green, at least they blend into the background but white against a garden of green, they are glaring, even blaring.

I forgot about the chair in which I am sitting, one of those Ikea style chairs, perfect for dorm rooms and apparently, a garden. Low to the ground, the royal blue water absorbent chair must have been designed for my size, being so comfortable I focus on my task, not on my perch.

Rarely does anyone but me sit in these chairs. Before the virus wiped out the Airbnb business in the Tower, few guests sat in them. Now the chairs sit, waiting under the jacaranda, living out their days as the sansevieria multiply, a fern frond opens, or a cat or squirrel pass by them.

Pretty much like me.

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Barbara Cole, Ph.D.

Played with a pet dinosaur. Loves developing countries and startups. Intends to be taller and speak every language in next life.