Last evening, I sat in one of the Adirondack chairs in my front yard and watched as a storm rolled in.
It was quite the sight. The clouds were alive with thunder and lightening. They just seemed to roll and tumble in the sky as the fury of the storm built. As it moved closer I could feel the air become charged with electricity. The leaves seemed to be quivering in its wake, and I watched as a number of birds flittered about making a hasty retreat for cover as the wind picked up. It was only when a couple of rain drops hit hard on the arms of the chair that I decided it was best to get out of my front row seat and get indoors.
I have spent many an hour sitting in my Adirondack chairs watching clouds drift by, being impressed by dragonflies performing their aerial stunts, observing as mayflies stretched and fluttered their transparent wings in the morning light before taking off for the first time.
I have also sat in awe of nature’s power during summer storms like last evening’s. Yes, I have witnessed many things while sitting in my Adirondack chairs.
The Adirondack chair, or Muskoka chair as it is sometimes called here in Canada, was designed by Thomas Lee in 1903.
Apparently, Lee was on vacation in Westport, NY, up in the Adirondack Mountains and needed some patio chairs for his summer home. He decided to make some himself and, after testing out a number of designs on his family, finally settled on what would become the basic design for what has become known as the Adirondack chair.
Lee’s original chair design was made with 11 pieces of wood, cut from a single board. It had a straight back and the seat was set at a slant to sit better on the uneven ground. It also featured the wide armrests which have become a hallmark of the Adirondack chair.
After arriving at the final design for his Westport plank chair, Lee showed it to Harry Bunnell, a carpenter who had a small shop in Westport. In need of a winter income, Bunnell was quick to realize the chair was the perfect item to make and sell to people who came out each year to their summer homes.
Without even asking Lee’s permission, Bunnell filed for and, in 1905, received US patent #794,777. He manufactured his planked wood Westport chairs for some 20 years.
When it comes right down to it, one of my favourite activities in the whole world is just sitting out in the yard, relaxing in one of my vintage Adirondack chairs. Over the 20-plus years I have owned the two chairs, I have sat and watched many a cloud drift by. I have listened to birds singing in the trees and pondered what is important and what is not. I have thrown the ball for my dog and fallen asleep with the warmth of a summer afternoon’s sun shining down in my face. I have watched the seasons change and the leaves turn colour. I have wished that some things could somehow be different, and I have felt grateful for the way other things are.
One of the chairs is painted. The other has never seen a coat of paint. I think I prefer the one without paint. It is more rounded, more comfortable, more familiar.
Did I mention that I enjoy just sitting there in my chair, nodding off and falling asleep in the warm sun.
I wonder if Thomas Lee enjoyed sitting back in his prototype Westport plank chair and feeling the sun on his face.
I wonder if he knew just how much people would come to appreciate the comfort and sense of familiarity that seems to get worn into Adirondack chairs.
Maybe I should put a new coat of paint on my chair.