StoryBoard debuts the Yellow Chair ChronEchols
By Candace Echols
Sometimes, news images have the odd effect of making me feel young and old at the same time: young because they are often hard to comprehend, and old because they are exhausting to watch.
Today I’m neither young nor old. I know this because I cannot seem master a jazzy Instagram story (although I’m a little bit proud of that fact), but I check my phone at almost every red light. You never know when a vital piece of information may come flying across between Cleveland and McLean. It’s a terrible habit that I intend to break tomorrow.
Yesterday, though, nothing new arrived on my phone and I had the entire stoplight to sit there and contemplate life. Low and behold, a deep thought arrived: if I could add one hour to my day, which hour would it be? Would I rather mosey through the morning, get more done at midday, savor my nap in the afternoon, or linger longer at the dinner table? It’s a tough question because a day is made up of so much. Almost every single 24-hour period leaves me feeling a little bit duped. However, are we supposed to accomplish all we need to do in a single day and then live and love and be? And create too?
As I crossed over Cooper, that first question sparked another, one that cut new grooves in my brain, I’m pretty sure: if I could add a decade to my life, where would I shoehorn it in? I am haunted by the shadow that life is passing faster than I thought it would. It’s shocking, actually, how briskly a lifetime sails by. So if I could extend mine, where would I stretch it?
I have lived long enough to tell campfire stories about good times, like when I jumped off the top of a Swiss Alp with a chute attached to my back. Or when I was really homesick in my early 20’s and flew back from the UK in the middle of the night without telling anyone. Or when I gave birth twice in one year (‘Irish twins’). Or about that time I was in a preschool class with Justin Timberlake. We were both three.
These first few decades have been exceedingly good to me, even with the bumps and bruises. But when I talk to people who are older than I am, I can see in their eyes that there are things I don’t yet know. There are lessons still to learn that enable them to make strikingly beautiful facial expressions that my face couldn’t mimic if I had all the selfies in the world to practice on.
Their eyes manifest emotions that own depths I haven’t yet plumbed. It terrifies me and draws me in all at the same time. What is it behind those lines in their eyes that makes me feel safe? They’ve made it through, maybe I can too. And to be clear, it’s not all people who are older than I am that possess this, this aura. But I have seen it many times and it always catches me by surprise. I want whatever it is they have.
East Parkway passed under me and I realized I hadn’t touched my phone in miles. Hoping nothing had caught fire in the last five minutes, I pressed on considering things bigger than posts or texts, things that have something to do with time and the soul and where they intersect. I floated over Flicker Street and suddenly found myself at that “V” in the road that I encounter everyday. I’m going east either way, but which road will I choose to get there? Poplar or Walnut Grove? Is there a better way? A quicker one? Which is more beautiful? Will I see a friend on one road that I wouldn’t see on the other? Is there something I should avoid on one of these roads? It wasn’t a big deal, so I just chose one and moved on. Never thought about it again.
But this is the stuff of life, like the intangible beauty that glows from behind the eyes of people who have lived more experiences than I have. They can look back over tens of thousands of decisions and see which ones were right, which ones they would do over, and which ones didn’t matter anyway. There’s a word for this:
It’s more beautiful than youth, and yet a young person with wisdom is a force to be reckoned with. It’s more striking than beauty, and yet a beautiful person with wisdom catches the eye of the entire world. It’s more fun than adventure, and yet an adventurous person with wisdom is the one who ends up on the moon. It tastes better than the most exquisite meals, and yet the culinary artist with wisdom feeds the body and the soul.
This world is screaming foolishness at us seemingly more every day. It’s deafening and screeching and far from the sounds we were created to enjoy. In this space, on this page, I hope you will join me as I seek wisdom. And in the pursuit, I hope, to find everything else. I think we will find it, when and if we seek it with all of our hearts.
This is the debut of the new column “Yellow Chair ChronEchols,” from writer Candace Echols. Candace recently published her first book, the children’s book Josephine and the Quarantine. Candace is a Midtown resident, wife, and mother of five. She has written for StoryBoard’s Page One Writing Workshops, and writes in quiet moments from her yellow chair.