When I lived in Minnesota, I had a fondness for a particular park bench near my townhouse. I initially stumbled upon it by accident, then realized it was the perfect place for scheduling moments of solitude.
It was located on the other side of a pond, and could not be reached without walking off a public trail and across a narrow, seemingly pointless grassy knoll that ended suddenly, without connecting to the public land on the other side of some trees and sagebrush. Its weathered wood was speckled in lichen, and the rusty cast iron ends usually included spider webs and a dried leaf or two. It had a look to it that suggested the city was debating if it should keep mowing the grass around it, or surrender it to the encroaching brush, once and for all. I never – not once – saw anyone sit on it, other than myself. And I sat there a lot. I wrote letters, diary entries, and doctorate study application drafts on this bench, as well as shed a few private tears on it, too.
Tonight, I went for a long run in my old neighborhood. Afterward, I wondered what the likelihood was that this rustic bench was still there. I walked down the trail, over the narrow knoll, around the bend, and there it was: The same bench, still due for a date with a sandblaster and some varnish.
So much has happened in the last few years. I am not the same person who frequented this place, and my personal and professional goals are no longer rooted here. Yet, as I felt the grass between my toes and heard the distant sounds of a lawn being mowed, I was overwhelmed with thankfulness that “home” was still here – and it had an empty seat waiting for me.