Column, Living the Dream

The Bench

By Merisa Sherman

There’s a bench on Kent Pond, where I like to go and sit. It’s not the world’s most comfortable or beautiful bench, just some old 2x4s bolted together and cemented into the ground. But it’s there just the same, beckoning one to come and sit and stare out across the water and out toward the mountain which surround the pond. The top piece of wood has been worn down over the years, so that the bench is just slightly lower on the one side. You have to sit down gingerly, in case you get a splinter where when isn’t necessarily wanted, but sit you do.

My feet are just far enough away from the water that I can’t reach, no matter how much I scoot down on the bench and extend my legs. But, for some reason, I always try. Perhaps I think the water is higher than usual, or that the beavers have made some new structure that will have brought the water closer to the bench. Or maybe I’m just stretching, settling in to my “Thoughtful Spot” and finding the perfect position for a few minutes of reflection.

It’s also a place of joy, as I was sitting here when my beloved cousin let me know she going to be a mom for the first time. I jumped off the bench then, and walked excitedly, through the water and onto the sometimes existing peninsula. It’s a peaceful spot, but it’s usually a loud joy. As a group of paddle-loving individuals gather to celebrate the 100th launch of one of our dear friends, there is nothing but laughter as we make our way out to Goose Poop Island. Or the rambunctious excitement of a family with two little girls heading off in a canoe for the first time.

But it’s also a bench of sadness, and where I would take our cherished golden retriever at the end of her life to wade in the water while I held back tears. I would sit and watch Vespi while she swayed along, the effects of her stroke not preventing her from putting her snout in the water, watching the fish swimming. She would follow them for hours, never even picking her head up when I called her name. Vespi loved to watch those fish. And I would try to be happy knowing she was happy.

There’s a bench on Kent Pond, where I like to go and sit. I’m not sure why, but there is something about that bench that makes me feel grounded and once again at peace with the world and myself. I always found it strange, that no matter how much time I spend on the water in my canoe or in the woods hiking with my skis on, that just sitting on this one bench has solved more problems for me than any place else. It is not a comfortable bench at all, but somehow it’s one of the few places where I can actually sit still.

And so I went this week. To sit and see if the Green Mountains would guide me, if they had any answers for the anxiety and chaos that are quietly becoming the new normal. The pond was still frozen solid, like the ski resort itself, and there was a feeling of emptiness except for two ice fishermen braving the pond. As I sighed a sigh of misfortune and despair, the wind came down off the mountains, wrapped itself around me and whispered in my ear. It sang a song of Peace, Patience, and Constance. The wind reminded me that it might change direction or temperature or intensity, but it will be there. I sat there and let the cold wind take over my soul, guiding me to relax and trust and breathe.

There’s a bench on Kent Pond, where I like to go and sit. But I think I’ll bring some hot cocoa next time.

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