I saw the bench in passing as I was hauling a box of my novels into a local community center where I was to take part in a local arts sale and book signing. My first thought was that the bench offered a nice place to sit if someone got tired on the walkway up to the center.
On my second trip, I noticed the red crabapples that had fallen onto the weathered wooden slats of the bench from the tree that sheltered it. On my third trip, I saw the small sliver plaque that had tarnished beyond readability and how the main metal support on the bottom of the seat was hanging askew. That bench had been there for a while, and no one was taking care of it.
On my fourth trip, I realized I was having all these reactions to the bench, and that I should pay attention. It’s funny and sad sometimes how intent we get on what we are doing (in this case, setting up my book table) that we miss creative fodder that’s right along the path.
After I was done hauling books and moving my car across the street to allow arts sale patrons the best parking spots, I took time to appreciate the bench. I unpocketed my camera and shot some photos of it and the surrounding beach. The bench photos don’t do it justice. I think my words describe it better, but I got some good beach shots.
I’ve been thinking a lot about mortality lately, what with “shallow graves” occupying my mind, and attending a visitation for a fallen media comrade. This bench spoke to me of a life remembered. It served as a token of respite and peace in a busy world, but a token now forgotten and in disrepair. How fragile human memory is! How fleeting! Yet the bench stands in testament that someone once cared.
Like any good, self-absorbed artist, I wondered if anyone would care enough about me to dedicate a bench in my name, and if they did, how long the intent would last to keep it in good repair. And in the big scheme of things, does it really matter? Dust to dust, ashes to ashes, and all that.
I suppose a poem is in that bench somewhere. I wonder if I will have the opportunity to step off the path of my busy life and write it.