Until the song fades…
June 2020 – It struck me this week, walking alone at Centennial Beach on a grey Saturday afternoon, that I’d never paid attention to the benches before.
They are scattered like so much wedding confetti around the park, on the edges of dunes and dykes and pockets of high intertidal saltmarsh. Most are marked by a plaque with the name of someone who has passed away.
On this particular day, in this particular era, every single one seemed achingly empty.
Set against the grey sky and the joyless beaches – in this unnaturally cool summer and during the self-isolation we are embracing in the time of Covid-19 – they spoke volumes about loss and solitude, reflection and quiet.
For the first time, I stopped at each one, aware that no one was nearby to impinge on my work as I took the time to sense the world from the unique perspective of the person for whom the benches were named:
Mary Copeland’s (1994) bench stood alone and somehow defiant against the sky, particularly if I skooted down the little hill behind it and looked upward.
Suzy Adam’s (2002) bench stood like a signpost at the juncture of two paths. You could rest here and, for a time, choose neither…
On the boardwalk tucked amongst the rushes, its shoulders hunched against the wind, huddled a bench for Harold and Marjorie West (1979, 2011).
Closest to where families might group in the sun making sand castles and wood forts, its arms crossed in grandfatherly amusement, rested a bench dedicated to Gordon Reginald Epelette (2007).
And for Madeleine Carol Elmes Wentworth, who died at barely 34 years of age (1996), I found a bench among the fescue and blue grass that seemed as adrift as a small vessel on a still sea.
For a time, that’s where I sat, looking at the beach grass and the horizon, thinking not very much while listening to the wind and the skittering sounds of the violet green swallows – until their high, sweet cheeps faded, and it seemed I could get up and take the silence with me.
Have a seat…