Thursday, July 8, 2010

Back! Back, I Say!

Appreciating clouds in the Right Sort of patio chair
The Importance of Not Being Earnest

I grew up with this odd idea that the point of clothes was to keep you warm and decent (not necessarily in that order), and that the point of food was to keep you alive and well.  Clothes might be attractive, but that was a bonus.  Food would probably be tasty, but even if it wasn't, you were to eat it.  In other words, food and clothing were necessities; pleasure was a happy accident--a utilitarian approach to life's basics which I maintained through early adulthood.

Then I spent six months in Paris.

In Paris, the purchase of green beans is an artistic experience.  The choice of an avocado--perfectly ripe for tonight, or perhaps for tomorrow--merits your grocer's undivided attention.  The selection of cheeses to serve after dinner offers adventure enough for even the strongest of heart.

In Paris, one matches one's fur coat to one's dress, shoes, and toenail polish (all in beautifully graduated shades of blue, bien sur).  One rides one's Vespa in perfectly fitted, princess-seamed leathers and heeled boots.  One wears lovely, floating silk scarves simply because they are lovely and floating and silk.

In Paris, necessity becomes delight.  Put another way, food and clothing are still necessities, but one of the necessities is that you enjoy them.  If mundane things are inescapable, the attitude seems to be, then why not revel in them?

Enjoying morning coffee with bonus balloonists
I loved that epiphany in Paris--that everyday things could and should be sources of intense aesthetic pleasure, that they should nourish and warm you spiritually as well as physically--and tried to maintain that attitude on my return to the US.  Unfortunately, when you have CFS, you have to calculate the effort-to-enjoyment ratio very carefully, and for me, in the name of survival, clothes and food have become merely utilitarian once again.  On the other hand, when you have CFS, you spend a great deal of time resting, and I have recently begun a quest to turn that particular necessity into an art form--something worth reveling and delighting in.

This brings us to the all-important topic of patios and, by extension, patio furniture.  I love the patio, because it is not a place for accomplishing.  Work has its place, and hard work satisfies like nothing else, but not, I repeat, on the patio.  The patio is a place for idling--for taking a mental and physical holiday from the indoor world.  Whereas indoors, a part of me is always muttering about vacuums and e-mails and dishes, on the patio, no part of me is called to action.  Perhaps if I am feeling particularly energetic and inspired, I may meander out into the garden (which takes approximately six steps) and deadhead a flower or so.  I may pull a weed.  And then, mission accomplished, I mosey back to the patio, possibly stopping to admire a particularly fine blossom or brush my hand against the oregano or pick a leaf of mint, before resuming my interrupted holiday.

Enjoying iced mint tea at sunset
To promote the holiday atmosphere, then, patio furniture should not encourage work.  In fact, it should make work well nigh impossible.  The one thing you should absolutely not be able to do in a patio chair is to compose a to-do list.  So unless it surrounds a dining table a patio chair should not sit up straight.  Sitting up straight suggests earnest practicality; it is the position of someone prepared to Get Things Done. 

Tsk tsk.

No, a patio chair--whether an Adirondack, zero-gravity, or plain folding lounge chair--should lean back just far enough that work is out of the question.  (N.B. The footstool is a magnificent invention.)  Try the following litmus test:  If someone wanted to drop grapes into your mouth, would you be prepared?  If not, the chair sits up too straight.  (On the other hand, a chair should not lean back so far that you need to use your abs to sip a cool, refreshing drink.)  You should be able to watch clouds drifting by and stars coming out, tree branches swaying in every breeze, cottonwood seeds floating haphazardly on a random current of air. 

Slaving away, gathering material for my blog.
Anything more than that, and you're working too hard.


  1. Hi Stacy - thanks for visiting my blog. I so agree with what you say about savouring things. It is hard to remember all the time, but I do try to do it. For different reasons from you (being single and not having a car) I tend to spend a lot of time in my home area. So starting my blog was a way of making a virtue out of a necessity. It has become an enormous pleasure and a real labour of love - and as a bonus I get to visit other lovely blogs too, like yours. Must get a patio chair though.....

  2. Jenny, thank you for your comment! I discovered your blog via Postcards from Across the Pond and enjoy your photos immensely, as well as your idea of offering a daily view of your home area. And I agree - making a virtue of necessity is a way to discover the beauties in a situation. It's a good, active way to count your blessings, if nothing else.