Work took me to Southern California last week. I expected the nice weather I found in Palm Desert, but I was truly blessed when, after speaking with the folks at the Western Pallet Association, I rambled down El Paseo Drive and into a cactus-lined courtyard called The Gardens on El Paseo. I was minding my own business of no business when, inside a trendy gallery called von Wening Art, I noticed wood out of the corner of my eye.
And not just any wood. I knew as I approached that I was coming into the presence of greatness. There it stood, its well-rubbed walnut gleaming at me, bidding me to approach.
The shop owner smiled at me and introduced us. This is an original Sam Maloof rocker, he said. I continued to stare and take it in, speechless and curious at the same time.
Sam Maloof is one of the most famous American furniture artists of our time. He passed away in 2009, and this chair came into the possession of the gallery owner, who was a personal "friend of Sam". The design is well known to furniture makers around the world, and yet, they say, the quality of the chair can't be replicated.
I asked permission to take photographs.
The owner just smiled and seemed to enjoy my appreciation of the chair. And then he did the unthinkable...he invited me to take a sit.
As in a dream, the next few minutes were in slow motion. I instinctively reached into my pockets and removed everything to a nearby table. I wanted nothing between that walnut and my body, and would have removed my clothing if I could have gotten away with it. As I lowered myself, the chair seemed to reach up and attach itself to my body contours, as if the wood was a long-lost exoskeleton. I waited for the usual pressure points...but none occurred. I was sitting in the chair, on the chair, and yet, it didn't impose its design on my body. We were one.
No movement had accompanied the sit. No wild rock back, no tip forward. That chair sat as still as any four-legged side chair ever did. And then, with but a thought, I was gently rocking. No foot motion, no body weight shift...just the experience of perpetual motion without expended energy. I wanted to rock, and the chair rocked. As it did, I ran my hands along the contours of the arms. No chair arm ever felt as smooth and warm as this. No sound...no creaks from the back rails, no rustle from the rockers. Absolute silence in movement. I had found the perfect rocker.