Wednesday, January 11, 2017

“Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after.”

~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

The image of an empty chair is to me, at the same time, both melancholy and comforting. It brings to mind people I wish I could sit and visit with but who are either gone from this life or far away in terms of distance or connection. It also surfaces a longing for meaningful heart-to-heart conversation that reaches deep, risks vulnerability, and evokes authenticity.

I remember one such conversation I had on the phone seven or eight years ago (odd, because I am not a telephone person). I lay sprawled on my bed like a teenager talking about real and philosophical things, finding commonality with someone who didn’t share all of my beliefs but with whom I shared something else at the core. Masks were off; we were listening to, and learning from, one another.

Then life intervened and she needed to tend to something immediately.

“I’ll call you right back.” she said. “This is good conversation.”

It wasn’t long. My phone rang and I took it upstairs and resumed my sprawled out conversational pose on the bed. “Where were we?”

But, try as we might, we were unable to return to the same level of connection we had enjoyed earlier. We stayed on the surface and flitted along the top, chit-chatted for a while longer, and then rang off.

I was full and satisfied from our earlier, authentic conversation; yet also disappointed by the surface banter at the end and our inability to reconnect at the same level. It just was what it was.

All these years later, I still hold that first conversation dear even though I can’t remember the details about what we talked about. We didn’t intentionally start out to have a deep conversation and just kind of fell into it, but the gift of authentic connection was sweet for both of us at the time.

We (at least, I) can’t make those types of connections happen at will, but when they do they’re magic. Surface conversation often wears me out (it’s the way of an introvert) where real, deep, authentic connection invigorates me. The thing is, you have to go through a whole lot of the former to get to a little bit if the latter. I suppose that’s part of what makes it all the more precious when it happens.

That’s what I see when I look at a photograph of an empty chair. What do you see?


I’m a writer, reader, and creative. I thought by now I’d have things figured out, but I keep coming up with more questions. I think that’s okay. I’m here most mornings pondering ordinary things and the thin places where faith intersects.
  1. I know those types of conversations. When they happen, they are gold and I long for them again. But they come at will, only fleetingly. I love your photo and wonder again how you get that wonderful look, You have a gift!

  2. Such a lovely delicate photo, with wonderful light and shade – like your writing :). Just pondering … perhaps that gentle soul-to-soul coming-close is only possible in small amounts? You asked what we saw when we looked at the empty chair. To my eyes, it isn’t empty; the swathe of fabric whispers to me that someone was there, someone laid it softly and with care over the back of the chair and there’s the promise that someone will be coming back for it. It’s more of a pause, a rest, in the conversation …

  3. I’ve had conversations like the one you described. And I can’t put my finger on why they were so significant, they just were. It doesn’t matter if you are talking the whys of the world or more intimate things…some conversations are just deep and satisfying. Those are few and far between. Now, we often have conversations on messenger or with texts. Sad, really. And empty chair….I see promise. What conversations could be had if you just sit, listen, interact face to face?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.