We journey hard and gentle down paths carved out for us, then work against sand and dirt and root to carve out our own. Mud under nails, calloused fingertips, labored breath. Proof of life.

It is both pleasure and pain to know this struggle, and we feel more alive for having participated with it. Flail, skip, exclaim, rage, rejoice, answer, wonder, reflect, settle, dig, bloom, bury. Tender, tough, undone, and whole. All of us with bits of wisdom and ignorance intertwined.

All of us, children in frames that paint an illusion of being more aged than we truly are at heart.

We are still drawn in by the water’s edge, by the curiosity of the birds that dare come close, by the resilience of the swans that have returned to Venice during shut-down, by treasure maps and tokens left behind in our attics, by wonders far and near.

We still flock towards play, and touch, and expression, and to spirits who lend their voices to the discovering of mysterious places in time and space. We still make melodies and find an excuse to dance in the absence of music playing.

We still sit on benches.

Hours and hours and hours on benches.

On my grandmother’s bench I have found myself (for months now) in the dark, still morning while all the world around me sleeps. I am comforted by quiet, private moments reserved just for me.

There is a bench by the River Thames where my friend lives. He sits and watches the water’s flow and writes. He watches his great city during this strange time of pandemic and considers life, legacy, love, survival — things that our personal resting spots give us the room to ponder about.

Couples on front porch benches, sipping tea and looking out over their homesteads, decades in the making.

Picnic benches where families gather, break bread, celebrate special occasions and one another.

Park benches where widowers sit and ponder full lives passed by, the breeze a reminder of the great loves who no longer sit next to them.

We migrate towards these seats of solitude as much as we migrate towards connection, closeness with other living beings. We need both to thrive.

I wonder as I wander down rabbit holes and corridors, through once locked doors and hidden passages — some enchanted, some not.

And as we step forward into the unknown, whether lightly or against the grain, we can know benches are to be found, carefully placed along our paths. They serve us with fellowship during seasons of uncertainty and offer rest in the midst of chaos. They meet us as individuals as well as foster a sense of community.

Whether you sit alone, or sit woven tightly next to another, it is a good and faithful spot to be found.

On a friendly bench.

Born in Rome, Olivia Gunn returned to her roots after a brief time of study at a university in Scotland. She is an honors graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in English from Gordon State College and is currently working on a book of essays and poetry as well as a memoir.

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