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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Why benches?

"Sitting is the gateway of truth to total liberation." -  Dogen

I suppose the title of this post comes right to the point of this blog. Why benches indeed. The humble bench. A place to sit, rest and stay awhile. Let your senses open up, your mind relax along with your calves. Look around you, notice the little things. Feel the sun on your face, and the wind in your hair.

I love benches. I always have. For years I have built small benches, set on posts, in appropriate spots for contemplation, leaving them like seeds of quiet in the world. Hopefully to grow and blossom into stillness for others. Some of these benches I know have long since rotted away, or been taken down. However, for a time, they were there, and I shall make many more.

As a practicing Buddhist I find this particularly appealing. Sitting, being still, resting in a state of brightly alert attention that is free of thoughts, is one of the object practices of Zen Buddhism. I don't intend this blog to become a Buddhist Blog, however, I cannot imagine talking about benches, without the practice of zazen coming into play. If nothing else, it provides me with some excellent quotes on sitting quietly.

As a builder and craftsman, I enjoy the cleverness of benches. They can be as simple as log upon the ground, or are complicated as the rich tapestries of Rococo forms found in French gardens. I like them in all their various incarnations, but I think I like them best when constructed of rustic materials. Recycled lumber, branches and prunings, brought together in new formulations to inspire humans. Nothing more than a hammer, nails, and a saw, can create a purpose of repose. So you may expect a number of rustic benches and hopefully many of my own construction.

This blog would not exist were it not for the inspiration of writer Sarah Salway and her bench blog, A Quiet Sit Down. While I was researching benches, it came across her blog, and was inspired. After sharing one of my benches with her, and musing on starting a bench blog of my own, she encouraged me, and so here it is. Thank you, Sarah. I hope we can both sit upon a bench together someday, and share a moment of solitude.

Perhaps we two are the only bench blogs in the whole vastness the internet. Perhaps there will be more. I know there will be more benches. I hope so. I hope that perhaps, this will inspire other benchers out there, to build and appreciate them all the more.

So for a first bench, I think I need to share my first one that I sent to Sarah and she graciously shared on her Blog. A simple one. Two posts, pounded into the ground, with a board nailed across them. It looks down on our home and gardens here in the mountains of western Maryland. We call our home "Flora Vale", and we have many benches. This was the first one I built after we moved here. A spot I discovered, on a little knoll, that practically called out to me for a place to sit. Now it is a destination, up a flight of flagstone stairs, it gives you a reason to go up there and sit awhile. Here it is.

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