Tuesday, March 15, 2011

This Old Bench

This Old Bench, 2011

This old bench has made the circuit around a couple of our houses. It was new when my wife bought it from a garden shop. It was heavy and sturdy, likely the work of an earnest Appalachian craftsman.

I didn’t know what we’d do with it at first. It was never comfortable to sit on. Cushions looked pretentious on it. Even when it was new the back and arms looked like something from the Addams Family garden that might grow out and wrap around you.

For several years it sat on the front porch of our old house, protected from the worst of the elements by an overhanging eave. When we moved to our current home it was placed on a side porch, similarly protected from the worst of the weather.

Then it moved out to the front yard, where it replaced an old cypress bench I’d been patching together for years but that the weather had finally gotten the better of.

I’m cheap when it comes to the garden things. I hate to throw anything out. I mulch all the leaves that fall. I put all the plant discards into a compost pile. Before the old cypress bench met its maker, I moved it to a wooded spot behind the house where it could create, in the parlance of garden design, a “view.”

In time, the old cypress bench fell apart. Meanwhile, the weather was slowly destroying the “new” bench, too. It had never carried a heavier load than a couple of pots of flowers. But it was always my assumption that it had never been intended for outside duty. So when various of its pieced started coming loose and it when it could no longer weight of a large pot of seasonal flowers, it, too, was replaced by another bench and relegated to viewing-only status in the woods behind the house.

Its decay continued in the back yard. And to be honest it never quite fit in back there. So I carefully moved it to the other side of the yard where it became part of the view from our kitchen window.

The Kitchen View, 2011

That was about a year ago. Since then, it’s been through more nor’easters and snow storms than one winter should have. Until recently it held up pretty well. The first sign that the end was near, though, came when the flowerpot on its seat fell through to the ground. The next sign was when the arms started falling off. The other day we noticed that the back had cracked and was falling in. The squirrels have liked to use this bench as a landing platform when they jump in and out of the nearby trees. So my guess is that one of the more zaftig squirrels tried to land on the back of the bench and it cracked under the weight.

Whatever the cause, it’s time for me to remove the sad remains of the bench. If I were in a more metaphorical mood I’d suggest that the bench is probably a stand-in for a lot of things in life. But I’m not feeling very metaphorical at the moment. So like those little squibs at the bottom of New Yorker magazines columns sometimes say, I’ll block the metaphor. The good part is that all of the pieces of this bench that started out in someone’s else woods and will go into the woods in our yard where they can decompose without anyone hassling them. Earth to earth, as they say. The bad part is that we’ll miss the view.

The Last Pieces Standing, 2011


  1. What a lovely piece, Chris! Damn--too bad--I love that bench! You gave it a perfect eulogy.

  2. I enjoyed this very poignant post.