Finding an escape in the seat of an old chair

“Sitting in the morning sun, I’ll be sitting when the evening comes.”

— Otis Redding (1941-1967) American singer and songwriter.

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We all find ourselves sitting there from time to time. Work piles up and finding the hours necessary to catch up looms. Time for chores on the home front suffers as a result, adding to already high stress levels. Then August arrives, turning up the heat on all of it, and we start looking for escapes.

Escape was on my mind a couple of weeks ago when I looked toward the heavens. News of the Perseid meteor showers reminded me of stargazing in the Hill Country, where my hilltop home was the perfect spot. Miles from the city without a neighbor in sight was the setting for many memorable nights of staring in wonder at the millions of stars, planets, and heavenly bodies not visible near city lights.

Remembering that late-night showing from more than 25 years ago, I loaded up my old folding chair and armed with astronomical information, set out seeking a celestial event encore. Lacking a good viewing spot from my city dwelling, I headed out into the countryside. That journey ended in Nacogdoches at the Pecan Acres Park near Stephen F. Austin State University. Finally, the darkness beside Bayou La Nana provided a place to settle back in my folding chair and wait for meteor sightings to begin.

Perseids did not disappoint. Long before the publicized peak of 6:00 a.m. rolled around, I was back in Shelby County, having left the cobwebs in my mind beside the creek bank under the stars.

Lake living on Murvaul some years ago provided sitting sessions of another form; that time by the water where coffee was relished while absorbing early morning sights and sounds. Birds flying just above the water, looking for breakfast. Turtles bobbing up then quickly disappearing. And that one faithful Nutria that swam slowly past the pier every morning heading north toward the dam, returning every evening to the cove.

I can’t say for sure that it was the same creature making both trips. From my lawn chair, they all looked alike. I pictured it as a family breadwinner on the way to work in the morning and returning home in the evening. It made a good story.

So it was no surprise that last weekend found me searching for that tranquility at Lake Murvaul in nearby Panola County. After driving around the lake, the marina at Decker-Hill Park was my first stop to watch end-of-day activities. The story from my chair last weekend was watching boaters loading up and leaving for the day as the night anglers began arriving. Some on the water and others along the bank, they all set up shop for whatever species of fish are caught after dark.

A vacant vantage point on the end of a pier opened up, so I unfolded my chair to relax. As darkness prevailed, soft strains of soulful songs were coming from a nearby dock where a couple was fishing. Presumably oblivious to their lines in the water as they relaxed in lawn chairs, the mood of the music prevailed as they quietly enjoyed each other’s company.

That’s when I realized what I had been overlooking; how to find the escape for which I had been searching. Stargazing, lake watching, even the solitude of the night might have been the escape, but the missing link was my chair. Moments of peace and solitude were around me all the while, but they went unnoticed until I unfolded my old chair and ignored time for just a little while—long enough to sit still and relax in the moment.

—Leon Aldridge

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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune,  the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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