Empty Chairs

I intended, once upon a time, to explain the title of my blog. I’m pretty sure I took it from somewhere else (all great writers and artists are thieves, right?), but I took it for a very good reason. I came to the realization that I could not meet anything with ignorance (aka silence). I don’t literally mean that I will never be silent, for there are times when silent is exactly the right thing I should be. There are times when I wish I had been silent. But this creed, “Never with silence” is a promise that I make to not be ignorant. It’s an oath to measure my intentions and act on them.

True to my previous blog post, I have tried to not let the world take my heart. There’s been a lot of good that has come from it, and I have been met with a lot of curve balls from the opposing team. But here I am. And I’ve come, now, to meet my own life with a passionate conviction. A friend passed away a little over a month ago. I lost a best friend. I fell behind on schoolwork. I got sick. I panicked. I felt unwanted. Curve balls. It’s been a really volatile semester. But somehow a small light inside has given me the strength to keep my conviction. It’s been my conviction. That light has been my enthusiasm, my most precious gift, my happiness, and my hope. This light becomes more brilliant as I read the Book of Mormon. It becomes stronger when I pray. It’s planted deeper as I wake up again and again and take a step out of bed thinking that the coming day will let me show how much I’ve improved every day. It’s helped me meet the curve balls with hard-hitting action.

That light is the spirit, Holy Ghost, Light of Christ. This light has been a powerful influence in shifting my perspective from despair to optimism. It’s been a good paradigm shift. In the National Gallery, I was examining a painting done by Vincent Van Gogh called Van Gogh’s Chair.

The man painted this as a companion piece to another “portrait” he did of Paul Gauguin called Gauguin’s Chair. I loved how much of a story each of those chairs told without picturing either of the men they represented. I realized that sometimes it’s the things we leave behind that testify more of who we are than anything else. As I was approaching this idea with the light inside of me pushing me towards optimism, I realized that something needed to come out. So, I present to you a spontaneous overflower of powerful feeling, aka a poem.

Empty Chairs

Van Gogh left a yellow chair,

in the corner over there,

smudged with blue from wearing life.

Perhaps that’s where he hid the knife.

But yellow still pushes through;

his perseverance shining true.

It is –the chair not unkind–

about what he left behind.

He left his place a simple mess:

a floor, a chair, an onion chest.

He could not tell you more than this,

and so the chair goes not amiss.

The empty chair of Carmody

is placed beside a garden seat

where flowers grow just to bring

butterflies near to paint the spring.

A beautiful chair near the spring

of life and Life and living things

turns me to the sunset now

and the hands that made the vow

to never immerse again, and

He gave the world a string of colors.

Your empty chair is not so sad

when I see the beauty had.

Around the legs, where’er they stopped,

the flowers grew and shadows dropped.

For all it’s worth the garden grows,

the world is better, and He knows.

Your empty chair, now I see,

Means only that you have gone to be

a gardener in a meadow near

for good you made this spot here.

The vineyard needs some expert hand

to care for the less fertile land.

The sun is rising here again

to say you have not us forgotten.

Like Van Gogh you paint it light

with yellow and some blue for night,

but nothing here is straight and neat

for beauty is in the working feet.

When Mary, Martha, and twelve more

sat around a table poor

and saw an empty chair thereat,

they must have wondered where He sat.

For where should the despised be,

after hanging from a tree?

Just as a child’s conclusion’s drawn:

to help somebody else He’s gone.

The unassuming empty spot

just meant some good was being got

For as angels asked, “Why seek ye?”

We must respond knowing He’s free.

His empty chair, like His tomb,

is nothing more than a finished loom

that is worked on ’til the work is done

and left for another one.

What will be my empty chair?

A perfect, unused seat so fair?

I figure that my empty space

should tell of all the years of chase.

My chair would wobble just a bit

until a book should stable it,

and the lamp would be close nearby

for the chair was bright when the moon was high

My empty chair should say of me

this woman is far too uneasy

to sit while others, tired, stand,

and others need compassionate hands.

I hope my friends would take a seat,

and know my place was at their feet,

and on my chair my books be read

long after even I am dead,

for what is missing is not the key

but what is left instead and why that be.

I know it’s not a top quality poem, but if you made it through, there had to be something there for you. I guess my whole point is that empty chairs shouldn’t be sad. That’s what I’ve come to see. The empty chair just means that whoever occupied the chair is off to do what they do somewhere else. The empty chair is also a representation of the legacy they left, and that’s not really a sad thing either (unless we’re talking about a special case, but right now I’m sticking with general cases).

I truly hope that my empty chair is one that is friendly and open and is surrounded by good books.

I am grateful for the light that’s leading me on. I’m grateful for optimism. I’m grateful for curve balls that help me push past my negative paradigms. And I’m grateful for the wonderful people around me whose empty chairs mean only that there is good in other places.

Carli Hanson

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