It all started with a red chair on a frozen pond.
Beth Colt, the dynamic and artistic owner of the Woods Hole Inn, is famous in some Cape Cod circles for her intriguing photographs. When she posted a photo of a bright, red wooden chair on a frozen pond one day last winter, the “likes” lit up her Facebook page like a Christmas Tree, and comments started pouring in. Folks around the country felt the need to share with Beth what the red chair meant to them–or simply to let her know that the image somehow touched them.
A year later, with red chair intrigue growing, we got the phone call. “Tom, it’s Beth. I want to take the chair on the road and need your’s and Ali’s help. I want to send it from Inn to Inn, and get it all the way to Provincetown.” Beth had already created a lovely website entitled Red Chair Travels to chronicle the journey, and we immediately knew Beth had a great idea, advising her that the inns receiving this precious cargo needed to fit he bill. They needed an artistic eye…a sense of fun and adventure…know how to work some PR magic (of course!)…and fit logistically. We quickly compiled a list, and shortly there after, Beth’s Red Chair itinerary was sitting in our inbox.
I took the red chair to a few of our favorite local businesses, like Cape Cod Beer and the Barnstable Village Market (could the Old Jail be considered a local business?). The red chair was welcomed with open arms at the brewery (owner Beth Marcus had previously come across the Red Chair Travels site, so she knew our little wooden friend was making its rounds). The folks at the village market were not familiar with the story, but their enthusiasm made me even more excited about the project.
I took the red chair to my favorite little bamboo forest along historic Old Kings Highway, as well as the grand marshes and breathtaking boardwalk at tucked away Gray’s Beach. I had some moments of “zen” (a phrase I don’t much care for, but it is what it is), as the places I took the chair were as beautiful and peaceful as I’ve ever seen them.
Taking pictures in such spaces always changes me–at least for the time being. I’m not aware of time, or schedules–it is pure meditation, but with an added bonus of having a camera that can capture such intimate moments.
But when I walked down to my basement to put something away that evening, it was 4 forgotten about, unmatched chairs that inspired me more.
I didn’t see this story coming. But here it is, for better or worse, thanks to a visit from a red chair…
“Tell me again!” Office Chair playfully demanded.
Flower Seat, a dainty little upright, wiped tears from her eyes, which were still watering from the last time. “I don’t understand it!” Office Chair said, sounding more defensive, but it was hard to hide his grin. They were all looking toward Old Man Cane–a rickety antique who wore his intricate woven features proudly, in spite of a few frays—all waiting for his joke to wind up again from the very beginning. That’s the way they liked it, from the beginning. It was the joke about the ottoman and the area rug—the one that never failed to keep them in stitches, but Poor Office Chair could never get his head around the punch line.
Red Chair knew the overnight in Barnstable Village was going to be a stop along the journey, and a perfect place to get the old gang back together again. “Alright everyone, let’s stay focused” was the shout from Patio Chair, who they lovingly referred to as “Deck”, because that’s where he always hung out. “This has been great, but I have a birthday party to get to today, and I’m sure I’ll be spending a lot of time under Mrs. Jenkin’s over-sized, cake-loving ass—tell the joke again so I can get home!” Old Man Cane couldn’t contain himself and nearly splintered, and the whole gang erupted in laughter once again—even Office Chair. It was now day break and they had been up all night in fits of playful giddiness, in spite of all their legs being numb from the night’s chill. “That Jenkins, she gonna be the death of you!” shouted Old Man Cane.
When the laughter finally subsided, Red Chair thoughtfully spoke up. “This has been amazing everyone. Maybe the best part of my trip so far”. “So where ya headin’ next?” asked Old Man Cane. “I’m heading further east to meet new friends,” said Red Chair, “But I’ll be back–you know we’ll always find each other.” “Amen to that,” Old Man Cane softly confirmed.
Then they all quietly sat, and sat, and sat, and sat a little longer, listening to the distant coo of a single morning dove. “All right, let’s get this over with” Deck finally chimed in, rolling his eyes. “OH YEAH!!!” Flower Seat exclaimed, vibrating her feet in the grass with anticipation. “One more time, PLEASE!” she squealed. Old Man Cane gave a slow creak and carefully cleared his throat. “OK! Here goes”, he announced, “But you have to keep it down. I tol’ ya, nobody needs to be hearin’ the ottoman and the area rug joke ‘cept us!” He said. “Beside, nobody ‘cept us would even get it—just like ol’ Office Chair here!” The laughter erupted once again. Office Chair knew when Old Man Cane was setting him up, but it didn’t matter–he loved the chairs–especially the Old Man, and being teased by them was just part of being in their family. “OK, here goes,” Old Man Cane said again, and then he continued to tell the joke about the ottoman and the area rug, and better than the any of the other countless times he told it (and without making it too obvious, he slowed it down, just a tad, for his friend Office Chair).
“….So that’s what they mean when they talk about cleaning the carpet!” came the classic punch line. Red Chair was watching Office Chair for a sign—actually they all were, and then Office Chair—finally–got the joke. He started to giggle…and then giggle a little harder…and then he laughed, and laughed and laughed. He laughed so hard that he started to swivel and spin uncontrollably. Flower Seat was chuckling right along, celebrating Old Man Cane’s most perfect delivery. The rest just watched Office Chair’s reaction. The more he laughed and spun, the more they lost it, and round and round, like a game of musical chairs, they laughed themselves to tears—and then the craziest thing that could have happened, happened—Office Chair laughed so hard he bounced off of his wheels and fell back onto the wet, spring grass.
For a split second they gasped in disbelief, and then they roared in hysterics until they all gasped for air. Eventually, one by one, each gained their composure, and finally Deck chimed up, “Man, that joke of yours is funnier than an Ikea Chippendale,” he said, quietly shaking his head as he motioned toward home. “Yep, I guess that’s a wrap!” announced Old Man Cane. “Yep, a wrap!” mimicked Flower Seat, who was helping Office Chair back onto his wheels, and they all said their goodbyes and headed toward their perspective homes. But Red Chair wasn’t thinking about home. There was too much to see out in the world. The warm and foggy morning was now dead silent, with the exception of that one distant morning dove singing about its travels. Red Chair, with all four legs planted firmly on the ground, couldn’t help but wonder what the day’s adventures would bring.