Empty Chairs

Empty Chairs

A photo project by W. Scott Olsen

We are a gregarious, curious species.  What is that? we ask.  Who are you?  Tell me a story?

Yes, it is often a good thing to disconnect, to shut off the phone and computer and listen to the new-again birdsong of spring.  

But the disconnection is really just a pause.  We inhale, with any luck smile, and head back into the stories. Are you out there? we ask.  I am here.

Community is motion.  Community is joy.  There is a particular grace in sharing wine on a Friday afternoon, in meeting new people or old friends at the airport, in teasing out some complicated idea in a classroom.  In those moments, and a thousand others, we contribute to the creation of the world.  

The virus has broken community, we trust for just a while.  Still connected electronically, we nonetheless have become lonely for the serendipitous, the unexpected detail, the comfort we feel in company.  

So when it all began, I found myself thinking about chairs, places where I have sat with others, listening to stories, telling stories.  The chairs were still there, waiting for us to return.  They are, today, evidence of both nostalgia and hope. In our new isolations, it is important to remember they are there.

W. Scott Olsen is the former editor of Ascent.  He teaches at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. The author of 12 books of narrative travel/adventure nonfiction, his photographs have been published in literary and commercial magazines as well as displayed in galleries and on book covers.