October 24, 2009

The Garden Benches

We put away the garden benches yesterday. They’re handsome things: two have blacks, cast iron ends with cedar slats painted a rich green. Those benches would not be out of place in the Tuileries in Paris. The third is metal, cast in the form of a profusion of ferns. It’s in a style that reached its apex in the Beaux Arts period and, as furniture, it’s a gem; a loveseat that’s as much an objet d’art as it is a seating area.

And that’s the problem. As we carried the benches from various points around the property to their resting place under the screened porch, away from the elements, I had the disappointing realization that I never sat on any of them this year. Two are strategically positioned to provide viewpoints across lawns and gardens. The third offers an elevated point from which to contemplate Danielson Pond. I never admired the vistas I helped create. I never took the time.

I know I’m not alone in this predicament. Last year we were at a wonderful garden and I admired a rustic retreat set in the woods. I asked the owner how often the little gazebo was used. The response was a rueful shake of the head. “I never have time.”

Often, it seems, such appurtenances are meant for the enjoyment of visitors. When the Medfield Garden Club held its August ‘backyard get-together’ at our home, the benches were both admired and well used throughout the morning and into the afternoon. We had the pleasure to attend a party this summer at the home of a Cape Cod landscaper, who has studded his beautiful property with seating areas large and small. When we had been his lunch guests a few weeks earlier, he allowed that he mostly enjoyed sitting on his deck during the rare times he was not working. That evening, though, his guests made use of every available space, sipping drinks and enjoying the views.

This is an admitted small sample. But I suspect that we buy ‘garden furniture’ with all of the best intentions of using it, then employ it more as ‘visual destination points’ for the eye rather than as functional places to park our behinds and relax.

Perhaps the reason is rooted in the possibility of enjoyment. If there were no bench – or gazebo or whatever – we could never sit back and taking pleasure in our gardens. The presence of the benches means that there will at least be an opportunity… if it ever stops raining (or if the mosquitoes go away, the humidity breaks, or any of a dozen reasons we give for staying indoors).

As we put away the benches yesterday, I made a vow that next year will be different. I will make it a point, at least once a week, to go out and sit on those benches. I may take a book or a newspaper, but I will also make certain that I allow adequate time to enjoy the view. A lot of effort has gone into that garden. The least I can do it see it the way visitors do.

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