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Inviting Joy to the table

The last piece of artwork I made involved chairs.

The image had been prompted after a visit to see my 95-year-old Grandad at his home. Whenever I see him, he’s in the same place and in the same position sat in his conservatory. We chatted for a couple of hours and his tales were rich and full of life. He is a very good storyteller and furthermore has an excellent memory for tiny details. I noticed he had levered himself forward slightly, away from the sofa cushion that sometimes seems a part of him, to engage with me fully and get closer to ensure I was listening. His enthusiasm for life as it once was as if he was living it over in the moment, left me pining for the excitement of it all in my own existence.

This visit coincided with the preparation I’d been doing at home in view of our impending move.

As sitting with people and taking up space is so visual, I’m more likely to bank it in my memory box as a future joy reference, as well as remembering how I felt at the time. A conversation stokes at the embers of who a person is, it enlivens their spirit. Connection can be a wonderful, meaningful experience. Conversation brings me a lot of joy.

I have given a lot of thought to the people we’ve welcomed into our old home over the years; the friends I’d shared deep conversations with over lunch or a cup of tea, the family we’d hosted for the odd birthday get together; welcoming our two baby boys into our home and family. The people we choose to invite into our homes, to sit in those chairs and take up space is very important. It is a reflection of those we care for and want to create time to be with. I’ve come to believe there is a sacredness in this.

Because a chair, is just a chair… a soulless object, cold and warmed only by the life of those that sit on them. We have a bench directly opposite our house on the moor and I love watching the different people that sit there. Sometimes on their own, sometimes couples or friends. The air glows upward and outward with the energy of them. This is the same when we invite people into our homes. Even after we’ve said our goodbyes …the memory, the energy remains for a while until stillness comes to sit with us once more. By reimagining a conversation, it stokes at the embers of the company we choose to keep or those we loved to sit beside and helps enliven their spirit and a sense of what they meant. Maybe you laughed together, cried together, conjured up a feeling immersed in a memory or picked at a problem.

I always remember when we used to help my Mum tidy up from a day at the tea room; remembering all the different people who had visited that day and sat in those chairs who helped create that sense of ‘bustle’, only for a stillness to fall on the room as we brushed around those same chairs at the end of the day.

A few months ago we shared a birthday meal out for my brother-in-law. It was an adult affair apart from my little baby niece who awoke to join the party. She sat on her Daddy’s lap for a while before I asked for a cuddle. And through inviting little Paige to the table, we also invited joy. Creating space, in a year when we’ve had to seek permission to come closer and also create space by observing the boundaries of it, make these interactions still feel more meaningful. In sharing the physical, we share our sacred heart space too. Lest we ever forget the distance we were forced to create in 2020, a year where awful things happened and to hug and to console, was considered too risky.

So, as Christmas beckons and with it, the busyness and the family togetherness, taking up a seat at the table should be more than something fleeting. Acknowledge these experiences as if it might be the last time. The opportunity to have and share in these moments is in fact a real privilege, an honour, that should never be taken for granted.

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