Despite temperatures having risen to an almost balmy forty-five degrees, the slightly elevated path on the trail that morning was icy, as if the snow in the middle had melted, flowed, and then frozen again in the night in a single line between the two more layered edges. We walked from breakfast until well beyond lunchtime along either side of the path, trying to avoid the icy middle; grabbing onto trees with our still-mittened paws for support when we began sliding, and catching up on twelve moons worth of unfolding. Losses reported. Notes compared about impossible choices. My friend’s long braid draped forward and over her shoulder, longer than I’d seen it before. She remarked about how the twisted strands of hair seemed to be marking time.
Beside my desk, I built a nest in the place where late-morning light streams in. The only shadow present is that of a windowpane which has the delightful effect of adding even more allure to the downy spot. My chair must be tucked in tightly in order to allow enough space for the cushioned pallet. A fibrous teal rug is at the base, then comes a fluffy white comforter with the unique role of migrating warmth from room to room in our home. After that, I’ve layered a heavy quilt with a grey-blue and melon design. Discovering my sisters had purchased the very same bedspread—across the country on the opposite coast—came as almost no surprise. For a pillow, a round meditation cushion was borrowed from our makeshift classroom, donning a red fox with a whimsical backdrop.
Despite the joyful reunion, after the outing my eyes felt heavy, my energy dense and bunched up around my throat from so much talking. The expenditure of life-force needed to be in company has become amplified after so many months of being only among my closest tribe. I crawled into my strange little bed in the nook at the top of the stairs and pulled the blanket over me. The weight of the cover was like a gentle mother, insisting on my need for a rest. Lying on my back I listened to the sound of a native flute I’d turned on and allowed my body to sink into the floor. Relaxing. Letting go. Softening the compressions that had occurred in the strata of me, my interior becoming more spacious and tranquil. I noticed a pulse at the level just beneath my breath falling into a slow rhythm—waves reaching a shoreline and then retreating back again—as if monitored by the steady rhythm of the tides. Bodies made up largely of water, even right down to our bones, are more fluid then stagnant; our souls encapsulated and afloat in the currents of our being.
Drifting between awareness and the near vicinity of dreams, I was eventually brought back upright by the slide and clank of a cargo bed door propelled open. From the window I could see a large truck in the driveway and remembered the chairs. Observing an oversized palette being moved onto the pavement, I wondered about the promise of a covered delivery. Before I could go downstairs to inquire, the truck drove off leaving the massive boxes out in the elements.
One day each week after school pickup, I stop the car before the garage and ask Jonah and Adrian to hop out and each grab a garbage pail to return to its place inside. Their mood of the day is reflected in the way they navigate this minor household chore. Some days meandering slowly, eyes glued to a book yet miraculously completing the task. Other days they are theatrical, entertaining me as they drag the cans inside as ineffectively as humanly possible. Afterward they relish the opportunity to direct my car into the garage, encouraging me to pull in as far forward as possible; to the point of my discomfort at my nearness to them behind the wheel of two-ton vehicle.
On this day, approaching the house, I request their help unwrapping and opening the boxes—one piled on top of the other in such a way that they tower above us. They have no way of knowing that the new chairs wrapped up inside will swivel. I’ve already begun doubting the choice, envisioning my attempt at a furniture upgrade morphing into an elegant playground spinner.
Grabbing a box-cutter from the center console of my car, I hand it to Jonah and put him in charge. Adrian collects the packaging, and I help him store it for the moment in a bin in the garage. The first chair comes down from the box piled on top and the three of us navigate it to the ground where it becomes immediately clear that the seat rotates. Thrilled at the prospect, they hop on and begin twirling each other around while I try to discourage them, making a dubious proclamation about how we will be treating our new furnishings.
Adrian and I carry the chair up the front walk, past the resting Buddha, and onto the porch. Once inside, he begins removing the protective packaging still wrapped around the legs of the chair and I return to Jonah to see his progress. We pull the second chair out of the box and carry it awkwardly inside. Jonah breaks a sweat, his cheeks turning pink, spending the better part of the afternoon deconstructing the boxes and transporting them into my trunk so I can take them to be recycled. He benefits with a little extra pocket money and perhaps evidence of his capacity to complete strenuous tasks.
Sliding an upholstered bench to the other side of the room, careful not to scratch the floor, I have no intention for it besides getting it out of the way of the new chairs. Its saturated monarch-orange color has faded over the years under the skylight’s heated glare, its stint as a welcome burst of color replaced with a desire for a more soothing palette.
It appears awkward sitting on the edge of the room and I feel a slight stab of regret removing one of Adrian’s favorite places to perch. After getting the chairs arranged, I decide to move the bench near the front door where, perhaps, it can be used as a place to sit while removing shoes. At first, I admire the way it looks lined up beneath a nautical painting—the aqua water and multi-colored boats juxtaposed with the more earthy orange.
Suddenly I realize that if I slide it to the right—away from the door—it can become a window seat. It possesses the exact dimensions necessary to frame a wide sill, lined with shells and stacks of books—literature that could become all the more relevant with a nearby place to lounge and read. Two potted plants on stands previously tucked in a corner by the stairs are brought to either side of the bench, framing the space and adding a greater sense of place. Later, patterned pillows will be dug out from a guest room closet and placed on either side, a rug laid beneath the four wooden legs.
That evening, instead of lounging in the new silky chairs, I curl up on the bench and begin thumbing through a book that has been sitting on the window ledge for months. Jonah approaches me with a look of irony in his twinkling eyes. His lips don a half-grin.
Why would you buy new chairs only to end up sitting here?
The next morning my wake-up call comes with the break of day, all of the other hearts in the house still beating gently in the cradle of sleep. Warm mug in hand, I get situated on my reclaimed bench, a pillow propped behind my back and a blanket draped over my lap. I can feel heat radiating off the baseboard onto the seat. The house is so still and quiet—only the occasional chirping of birds permeate the silence.
Ensconced right next to the window, I contemplate my nearness to the natural world. The sense of the trees—of the air—being right there within my midst.The prospect of being held in a new space with the opportunity for a new mind sends shivers up my skin. Looking out at an angle down the covered porch, I notice the way the windchimes and a bird feeder seem to hang drifting in and out of a single line in the path of my sight. My attention is then drawn more-near, my gaze landing on the crimson glass birds strung with a thin line and hung from a metal cross.
The sun’s morning rays shine directly through the red glass and I allow myself to fully look at and to see the way the two come together in a point of almost liquid color. It seems for a moment as if the ruby colored creatures combined with the sun’s luminance are the most beautiful arrangement of materials and life that could ever be.
It’s remarkable the capacity of the delicate glass, an indoor design, to have survived yet another winter; to appear so fragile and yet to have weathered less—at the mercy of the elements—than its metal counterparts.
A few days later, Jonah and I returned to the path where I had walked with my friend. I thought the ice would have certainly melted under the heat of a string of sunnier days. And yet, it remained very icy in the center, allowing me to comment to Jonah about my previous experience and prompt a dialogue about the middle path.
Balancing along the edges, I shared some ideas about ease and its discovery in the spaces between absolutes; the prospect of living as if in a curious dance, churning with all of the places between the knowing and the not-knowing.
Jonah teased me about how clearly, clinging to the trees, I was not traveling the middle path in the way he was!I observed him sliding about in his blue sneakers, drawn by the challenge of the icy middle way, filled with an appreciation for all it took to remain standing.