“She believes this chair has feelings.” A friend delighted in introducing me this way, as she offered an empty chair as a place to sit.
She never mentioned Edgar Allan Poe or the character, Roderick, in “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Saying I believed in “the sentience of things” would not have had the same effect.
The chair example belongs exclusively to the friend. It always created a moment, interrupting the flow in any room. To sit or not.
I don’t remember ever responding to or being asked to explain but this was 30 years ago. Memory’s light softens past edges.
Then, I was teaching in an outreach program in a community of less than 3000 people, high in the Rocky Mountains where timberline was visible from my kitchen window.
The uniqueness of such a community only heightened my belief in sentience. And like Roderick, I soared in its atmosphere; like the Usher house, the community fissures ran deep.
I had not even considered my own cracks, much less believed in their existence. Both Roderick and I stayed too long where we did not belong.
I was focused only on the possibilities in life, not how life was actually playing out. It is slippery this energy flowing through everything and everyone. Each is its own version.
I understand that now but then I was clueless, remarkably naïve. I would rather ride through time than be a slave to its hours. In response, life broke me wide-open.
The energy of existence will not be denied. No house can hold it.
It is scary to stay on the road of life but to seek shelter as if the path does not exist is terrifying. It has taken me decades to recognize that.
These days, I tuck my head under my heart, something I never did in those heady teaching days of living in a high plains desert in the Rocky Mountain West.
The human heart feels things the eyes
cannot see, and knows what the mind
And it is true that I have yet to meet an empty chair that I do not remember those days and the sentience of things.