Tuesday, August 25, 2015


There they were—two unfinished Adirondack chairs poised beneath the shade of the tall hemlock in the backyard, looking as though they belonged on Lake Champlain in Westport, New York where their creator conceived the idea for this piece of outdoor furniture. All summer I have passed interpretations of this classic chair when I walked on the campus here at Sewanee, Tennessee and longed for at least one of these low-seated, wide-armed chairs. A few weeks ago, I received a late birthday gift of two of these chairs and a small table that complemented the Adirondack design.

Humidity reigned, then rain fell, and the Adirondack chairs sat poised under the cedar, looking comfortable and durable, but weather didn't allow me to use them. A few days ago, "in the cool of the evening," as we say in the South, my good friend Vickie told me it was time to try out the chairs.

"You have to take off your sandals and let your feet rest on the ground," she said, after we plunked down in the chairs that are sometimes called the chairs of 'American Summer.' "There's evidence that 'earthing' will dispel the negative charges and toxicity in your body into the ground, and you'll feel healthier from the experience," she added.

I seldom argue with a scientist, particularly one who exudes good health and stays abreast of latest nutrition and health practices. "I just came out here to relax, maybe even rest a glass of some libation on this wide arm," I told her. "However, I notice that there are splinters—and what is this black stuff—mold?"

"We've had a lot of rain. I reckon they should be painted. Or sealed or something. But you're always seeing things need to be done when you get out in the yard. Just keep your feet on the ground and let the negative charges trickle out."

"I think there's a colony of ants trickling in and climbing my leg."

"You just don't know how to enjoy the ultimate armchair," she said, sighing heavily. "Just go in the house and get the can of OFF, and then we can resume this exercise."

There, she had done it—she had called the activity of relaxing in the Adirondack armchair 'exercise,' a word that quickly builds up negative charges within me when I hear it. But I went indoors and returned with the OFF, spraying it liberally on my feet and legs. As I pushed up the pants leg of my jeans, I thought I spied a small red dot appear on my ankle.

"You say our bodies are conductive and can receive electrons from the earth—that includes attracting chiggers, doesn't it? What about hookworms and roundworms?"

My friend sighed again. "This chair is perfect for 'earthing,' and if you'll sit here thirty minutes, as prescribed for good health, I'll tell you a story about your new chairs. Did you know the Adirondack chair was originally cut from one plank and made from eleven pieces of wood?"

"Uh, uh." I swatted at a giant bumblebee flying low and began misting my upper body with the OFF, twisting and turning in the chair as though a squadron of the bees had landed on me.

"Keep your feet flat on the ground or you won't get the full benefit," my friend warned.

I dug my toes into the dirt and grimaced.

"To continue," Vickie said. "Here's the story I read about your Adirondack throne. This man named Thomas Lee had a summer place on Lake Champlain near Westport, New York and decided to build his own outdoor furniture for his family. He constructed what he thought was the ultimate lawn chair, and his family did a lot of chair sitting in the new chairs before his hunting friend, Harry Bunnell, came by one day and volunteered to build more chairs in his wood shop during the winter season. So Lee loaned Bunnell the plans for his chair, and Bunnell built some out of hemlock and basswood and stained them green and brown. When summer came, and residents of Westport saw the chairs, they loved them. Bunnell, realizing that he had a big seller and without Lee's permission, filed for a patent on the Adirondack chairs. They sold like hotcakes, and Bunnell called them the Westport Plank Chairs. 'Seems like the story ends there. No one knows if Lee continued being friends with Bunnell, and Bunnell put his signature on every chair he made. Today, these signed chairs, if discovered, are worth thousands of dollars."

I jumped up and turned my chair on its side. A streak of black mold marred the rough surface of the chair bottom, and a few ants scurried away into the grass.

"I think that chair came in pieces and had to be put together," Vickie said. "It isn't likely that anything is written on the bottom of it. I'm sorry I told you that story. You do have a serious problem relaxing!"

I slipped on my sandals, picked up the can of OFF, and went indoors where I sat down at my computer and began searching for auctions scheduled in the Tennessee countryside.

The following morning I looked out the kitchen window and saw a large robin using the wide arm of one of the Adirondack chairs for his morning constitutional—it was the chair I had vacated before my 'earthing' session ended. Then he flew to the ground and sat there using his bare claws to absorb electrons in just the manner my friend had recommended. I smiled, hoping that his grounding hours had added years to his life. When he soared off into a perfect blue summer sky, I went outdoors to clean up my ill-used Adirondack chair, sat down in it, and took off my shoes.

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