The View from Mattie’s Pillow

Ed’s Chair

This morning, the sun was bright on the snow when I went to feed the horses. March light can be so intense; it promises warmth, but doesn’t yet deliver. Still, I can feel an inner bubbling, spring energy returning.

When I started this series of posts, it was deep winter: dark except for a few hours a day and bitter cold at 40 below. For days in January, after the holiday round of visits, feasts, gift exchanges, and as I began a semester-long sabbatical, I nested in a large comfy chair, a pillowy recliner given to me by my friend Ed. The chair faces a wall of windows that offer a southeast view from the Ridge  across the Tanana River and over the flats to the point where the Alaska Range disappears into the horizon. During the deep cold, I didn’t move from that chair except when I needed to feed horses, dogs, humans. Some nights, I even curled up in the wide arms of the chair, tilted it back and slept.

The chair came to me from Ed after a difficult period in his life. Ed is my parents’ age, a man who had been athletic and adventurous in his youth, who had come to Alaska after some unspecified difficulty to settle in for one last adventure. He loved–still does–to eat, and the confinement of winter, the encouragement of friends, and this chair allowed him to spread out in a wealth of weight. He had the kind of expansive size that’s a sign of good fortune or high rank in some cultures. In ours it’s a sign of impending disease.

Ed gave money away, and, when friends and I got involved, his money was being siphoned off by unscrupulous “friends” he had taken under his wing. He had a series of hospital stays: pneumonia, heart failure, stroke–and we contacted his children around the world. Finally, however, we were able to find him a place in the Pioneers Home, an Alaskan tradition, run on “green” principles. He’s active, happy, in love with one of the residents, though still missing things on his left side, a result of the stroke. When we were packing up his house, closing out an important part of his life, he asked me to take care of the chair, and I have. When I sit in the chair, I think of Ed, who always wanted to make life better for his friends. It’s comfortable, a good place to sit with a laptop and write.

On the other hand, now that the light is returning and temperatures hovering around zero–temperate for this time of year in the Interior–the chair feels too comfortable, a pleasant trap. I find that I have no need to move a muscle when I sit in it. I’m a person who likes to move–dance, ride, walk, fidget–and being inactive shocks my system. Outside the window, juncos and redpolls have found the bottle feeder we hung for them. They flit over, perch for seconds, a few seeds’ worth, then swoop away always on the move. Beyond them, Sam and Mattie chew the last bits of morning hay, the sun on their backs. If I get out of this chair and walk to the deck door, they’ll see me moving there and lift their heads. In a few minutes, I’ll go out with them and leave this chair.

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