When we bought the mill France, the large barn, which would become the primary studio space, was full of old wooden chair frames, their feet turning to dust from powder-post beetles. I shuffled fifty-two of them, like a deck of cards, and dealt them in single file to form a wall on the bridge in front of the mill.
For two years, the chairs watched the restoration of the mill buildings, and when the new bridge wall displaced them, I moved them to rest, side by side, up a path overlooking the waterfall behind the mill. The moist air hastened the decay of many.
After another year, the chairs that remained were returned to the bridge, their legs jammed down onto the new wall, where they balanced precariously over the rocks in the little river thirty feet below. Most eventually tumbled to their fate.
The chairs that didn’t fall were laid out on the bridge bed for a few weeks, to be prepared for the fire. Of the original fifty-two, only thirteen remained.
I carried each chair over the top of the mill dam and lined them up on the river bank. The chairs had witnessed over three years of restoration of the mill complex and the weather had added to their preexisting state of disintegration.
So while the destruction of the chairs seemed inevitable, there was a sense of sadness, even among the crew working on the mill: “Elles sont vos amies, n’est pas ?” The chairs had indeed become our friends. I drew cards to see which chair to burn first.
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