The Bench

Before working at my other job, I usually go a little early & sit by the dock downtown. It has a beautiful view of the marina; I’ll read my book or write in my journal.


It's my little quiet time before the craziness ensues.

Today, I went to my spot — as I usually do — & accidentally put my book in a little pile of poop. No joke. Some sort of animal waste got all over my hands & on my book (ironically, I’m currently reading: When Things Fall Apart). It was disgusting. So, I had to go to the porta-potty (also a bit gross) & clean all of the actual sh*t off my hands & book before work.

So why does my feces story matter? Well… this little nauseating turn of events left me to meander to another area of the boardwalk.

I wandered along & decided to sit on a bench instead — evaluating, first, for any signs of poo. I thoroughly scrutinized every square inch of bench space. And, after a few bench inspections, I found one that worked for me.


This bench was clean as can be — my haven! It happened to have one of those dedications on it. The dedication read:


“In loving memory of Mary C. Van Brunt. She loved it here.”


I sat down, and my mind went to this mysterious individual named Mary. Mary C. Van Brunt. A woman whom I would never meet. A woman who sat on this bench, just like me, pondering life, pondering why’s, pondering it all.


I wondered if Mary had a family, or a husband, or a wife. I wondered if she had kids, or pets, or if she lived alone. I wondered what her Christmases were like, and Thanksgivings, and her birthdays. I wondered if she was afraid to age, or if she greeted it with acceptance. I wondered how old she was when she died. Who was Mary? And why did she love this place so much? Why “here?” Was it the view? or the company she shared it with? Was it the atmosphere itself? What was it that made her so contented?

I sat on the bench & wondered a lot. Mostly, I wondered about questions I’d most likely never get the answers to, and... for me, that was okay. Mary loved this spot, and I was beginning to like it myself. Together, we could enjoy it. And I think in that way -- time travel is real.

As I walked to work that day, Mary's bench had me thinking about the impermanence of it all. About how, when we die, it comes down to only a few moments. And it’s kind of crazy to think we live our whole lives, & only a few moments 'make the cut' after we pass. Like today, the bird poop on my hands/book day, this day thankfully won’t be a part of what I leave behind.


But it’s strange isn’t it? How, when we are living, our lives feel so vast and expansive. And then we die... and our entire life is summarized in a two paragraph obituary. The memories that others have of us become concise and small. And after time, with our fading memories, more concise and smaller. With time, our vast, expansive lives turn into compact synopses.


In some cases, entire lives can boiled down to one moment… like… I don’t know… a love of sitting on a bench. But even that moment won’t exist forever.


I begin to think about Mary again.


“In memory of Mary C. Van Brunt. She loved it here.”

Mary loved it here.

“Here.”

I like to think Mary’s “here” is more than just the physical location of this particular bench. Although a beautiful spot, I think Mary's 'here' can refer to THIS moment, OUR now, THAT “here.” I think she’s talking about the benches WE sit at when WE’RE living. The 'benches of presence' if you will.


The truth is, a lot of the time we forget to check in, & say 'here' to life. We seem to spend a lot of our time obsessing about our pasts or our futures, and missing our nows.


I’ve realized “here” is all we really have, because our moments will sooner or later be consolidated onto a miniature plaque, on a little bench, in a small town. & I like to think Mary realized this, way before that plaque was ever put in her memory.


Although time separates us, and I couldn’t tell you one description of how she lived, or who she was, or when she died, I think Mary & I are a lot alike.


Because I love it here too.