10 August 2018 – How much civility is added to our lives by the strategic placement of public benches! They allow us to sit, to consider, to rest, to be at ease in public space, perhaps to share that space with others, or simply to enjoy the present moment — or a succession of present moments, if we are patient enough to allow them to unfold for us, in their own time and way.

I am particularly enamoured of benches at the VanDusen Botanical Garden. They exist in great variety, and in magic settings.

These Michael Dennis red cedar figures (Confidence, 2012) need no bench as they gaze upon Livingstone Lake, but we humans appreciate the one down there in the shade at water’s edge.

It is a classic bench shape ..

as simple and timeless as the lines of a canoe.

I sit there, mentally floating with the water lilies on the lake.

Then I sharpen focus, both mind and eyes, my attention snagged by movement in the lake. One lily pad, just one, is jigging back & forth.

I watch. I wait.

And I am rewarded by the sight of a tiny black triangular snout popping up on the lily pad’s far side. A turtle is busy doing turtle things, and I would have missed it but for my willingness to just … sit there.

Many benches have plaques, most of them just a commemorative name. I am so grateful to discover this one, for it perfectly captures what I am doing, what benches offer us if we come to them on their own quiet terms.

The plaque is attached to this bench beside the R. Roy Forster Cypress Pond — another classic bench shape

From here I often rest my eyes on knobby cypress knees all around the Pond and, one memorable day, listen to a young woman chant mantras at the far end of the floating boardwalk, just out of sight.

Very plain, these flat benches, but they often have ornamentation.

An impromptu walking stick, for example …

or a whole smother-load of plant life.

Another classic bench shape, with arms-and-back, this time also with guy-and-cellphone, up by the Scottish Shelter and Heather Garden.

Same bench shape elsewhere, but minus the guy — and minus a few back slats as well.

All the different ways, to make a bench part of your meandering exploration of this botanical garden.

Walk quietly into the Meditation Garden, rest on a stone bench.


Walk the narrow wood-chip Azalea Trail, sit a moment tip-tilted on the world’s most rustic bench …

and, farther down the Trail, sit a more stable moment on the world’s second-most-rustic bench.

Say good-bye to rustic.

Loop to the north-eastern side of Heron Lake, cross the open lawn between the Giant Redwoods and the South African Garden, do a double-take, suddenly realize that the elegant green ellipse down by the water is not a companion sculpture to the David Marshall work in the background …

it is a bench.

That is my discovery this very day, after a year-plus of visiting the VanDusen. So I sit there, and I laugh at myself and all the discoveries we can make as we go through a day. What fun this is!

I think a moment about what I have seen and heard, just by sitting quietly on one or another of their benches — ducks carving a slalom curve through thick lily pads in Livingstone Lake; hummingbirds darting back & forth among shrubs above the Cypress Pond; a heron suddenly landing on (where else?) Heron Lake; chickadees calling; squirrels scolding; ducklings plonking along after mum, past my bench & back to the security of the water.

I walk on, read another plaque.

“A place to sit in the garden.”

Yes. Exactly.



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  1. I always look at benches too…read the messages either on a plaque or etched into the wood….they are layers stories in what you have captured and such beautiful flora…have a wonderful day Penny enjoy your walk! ☺️💫✌️

  2. 😉

  3. THIS, is one of our all time favourite posts of yours. Reading this was one of those rare times when ‘the eyes are the windows to the soul’ comes to mind. Not in its conventional meaning but in the way that flung open, whatever is invited in, goes straight to the soul. Felt this way in what and how you wrote. Happened this way in our reading. Thank you.

    • Thank you so much! When I think how much I have to be grateful to you for, over the years of my visiting Leslie Spit and not knowing how much of what I saw there (including that meticulous lettering) was your work. So here’s an across-time thank you as well. I’ve just read, enjoyed, commented on your own latest post.

      • Thank you Penny, got it. Just to be clear,(credit where credit is due, yes?) most of the sculptural works you saw on The Spit with our writing nearby were by others, unknown to us. The writing, (with that lettering 🙂 ) by us. It has been (still is) a most delightful anonymous urban wild art collaboration. I think that’s an oxymoron — anonymous and collaboration in the same sentence. THAT’s what we like, disregarding convention.

  4. Absolutely wonderful! Looks an amazing place. So beautiful.

  5. I really like the views in this post and the sentiment of just waiting and watching. Relaxing…I walk nearly everyday, mostly on the beach. Walking consistently is changing my life. Thanks for the post.

    • Oh, I know what you mean when you say walking consistently is changing your life. It has changed mine. Thanks for taking time to comment, and thanks for the follow.

  6. I love this idea, a post about benches, and I’m surprised at the variety in pone garden. The designers thought each one through, didn’t they? That last line sums it up – there’s nothing like sitting by a garden…

    • Yes they must have planned that variety of benches, to fit so well into each environment. It truly is a magical place. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

  7. I meant, “in one garden” 🙂

  8. ericseidlitz

     /  11 September 2018

    Best post yet. Very Penny. I love plaques on benches… Eric knows I cannot resist their lure.


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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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