I was walking from my in-law’s house to work the other day. It is longer than my normal commute by foot, but is no great punishment. Prince Edward Island, when not beset by winter storms that are just starting to get serious as they pummel New England, is an intensely beautiful place. Besides the allure of history and literature, the romance of brine-coated fishermen’s beards and red soil turned to the sky and white beaches that kiss the sea for miles on end, our city is blessed with tall trees, quaint houses, and many green squares.
I looked forward to the walk.
As I walked through Old King’s Square with some story or another in my ear I looked over to the art installation. It is a series of bronze chairs, patterned after 1880s dining room chairs but at 1.5 the size. The original chair designer was 19th century entrepreneur, Mark Butcher. His furniture factory was where Maritime Christian College spent the first four decades of its life. City Council thought a nod to this history in King’s Square would bring a sense of nostalgia and fun to the area.
As I was walking through the Square, I looked up to see the five bronze chairs. There, sitting on one of the chairs, was a young man. With Dr. Dre earphones on, he sat with his back to me, listening to some song or other. As he lost himself in the music, his legs dangled from the half-giant height of this outdoor dining room chair. And as his legs dangled, he naturally allowed them to swing back and forth, sometimes hooking onto the chair legs and sometimes churning in boyish circles.
It was a joyous site: an adult sitting on an expensive piece of art, enjoying his music and allowing his feet to dangle. I remembered how often I slid into old country house dining room chairs as a kid. I remember the weight of my freeflung feet on my knees, and the not infrequent reminder from a parent or grandparent or aunt to stop kicking the chair.
But how could I stop it? Legs dangle when they hang from big chairs. Every kid knows that.
All of this went through my mind I as I wandered through the park. I dallied too long in reverie, though. As I walked by the guy looked up and caught me smiling. He blushed, took up a goofy grin, and stilled his wavering feet. I tried to look away, but it was too late.
I was struck, though, with how strange our world is. It honours a certain kind of adultness—adulticity, I call it–a strange desire to restrain wandering legs as they dangle from giant chairs. I felt badly that this adulticity would have brought the man into self-consciousness. I wished he could dangle anyway, despite my intrusion.
Because, after all, the child in me wants to swing his legs when he can’t reach the floor. Even when he is stealing some time on a local art exhibit.
And even when sitting on chairs of bronze.