|A Point Grey-area bench, overlooking a boulevard vegetable and flower garden. The inscription on the high beam above the seat is: "Sit A While!"|
I never noticed benches much until I began escorting my mother on her walks. As she gradually lost her eyesight and mobility, benches became treasured landmarks -- places for her to sit and recharge so she could make it to the next one. I appreciated benches then; they were a sign that someone recognized disability and old age, and that some of us won't always be able to walk as far and as long as we want.
As I've roamed my neighbourhoods this summer, I've been particularly impressed by what I call "private benches." These are benches not installed by the park board or city hall -- which are officially obliged to bow to the infirm -- but by private individuals with a sense of neighbourliness.
These benches, sometimes just seats on supports, are located in such a way that people know they're welcome to use them. Some are on boulevards, which are actually city property but maintained by the adjacent homeowner. Some are right on private property.
I have two favourites. One is in Point Grey, with a sign high above that says: "Sit A While!" It's by the sidewalk on the owner's property, looking toward a busy vegetable and flower patch on the boulevard. Someone sitting there could watch the gardener at work; it's pretty certain a conversation would ensue.
My other favourite is in my own Dunbar neighbourhood. It's a painted wooden bench nestled among lavender plants and backed up against the property's support wall. The inscription on its back says: "Come sit with me." And as if the property owner really means it, there is a second bench a little farther along.
People who reach out to their neighbours like this are treasures. They're not just providing a thankful rest-break for an elderly person struggling to get home; they're welcoming connections with the world.
|The house behind the Dunbar bench. I think the people who live in it have the right attitude.|
|A closer view of the Point Grey bench.|
|This is the most informal of seats -- a flattened log amidst lavender and roses on a corner boulevard.|
|The high hedge makes this boulevard bench seem less welcoming, perhaps, but someone has made an effort by planting a big burst of white begonias under a nearby tree.|
|This bench at the end of West Vancouver's Argyll community garden provides a beautiful view over the ocean toward Stanley Park.|
|There's lots going on on this boulevard, with plants, flagstones and pots, but I assume the bench is available to passersby.|
|Beans on one side, a bench on the other. This is an odd triangle of property that somebody decided to make use of.|
|Somebody's beautifully made wooden bench welcomes people to sit as they wait at a nearby bus stop.|
|The most casual of seats -- a plank on top of some paving stones -- is beautified by the garden around it on the Arbutus Corridor, now known as the Arbutus greenway. It's the site of a former CPR line recently bought by the city.|
|A lushly topped seat in a public space in the Arbutus area.|
|This bench in Saltspring's Duck Creek Park is a fine one. But I object to the view of water, ferns and trees being ruined by a placard telling people that it's healthy to walk in a park. Duh!|
|A seat at the edge of a boulevard flower garden in the Point Grey area.|
|Is it a bench or two planks drowning in ivy? In fact, this seat at the entrance to Argyll community garden in West Vancouver is quite usable.|