As Close as the Air

June 28, 2008

Sit by my side, come as close as the air,
Share in a memory of gray;
Wander in my words, dream about the pictures
That I play of changes.
                — Phil Ochs, 1940-1977
                    American singer-songwriter

Something shifted in me today, some quality in the air or the light that told me to pay attention, to look around, to examine the signs. I went into the day’s occupations with a thoughtfulness about what might be significant, what I might be being called to.

In the evening I went to my place by the river. 

My bench is gone.

For more than fifteen years, since I’ve been going to that place by the river, I have sat on the same bench. It is the same bench that I sat on as a dreamy teenager who went to the river to read, thirty years before the Peace Garden with the Franck sculptures was installed. Well okay, if it’s not the same bench every time, at least it’s in the same place, at the corner of Front and Woodbine Streets, five blocks down the hill from the house where I grew up. It’s angled to face southwest, under a tree, with a view of some small eddies in the river and a lush forested island beyond. I go there mostly alone, but I have also gone there with people I care about. I have sat on that bench with almost everyone on this earth I truly love, I have said. 

And it’s gone. There is an empty spot where the bench was. The foot stones are still in place, as are the rocks with the plaques that give quotations chosen by the sponsoring organizations. My spot includes the thought from Gandhi about how we must become the change we seek.

I stood uncertainly at the place where my bench should be. What am I going to do? I thought with distress.

And then I knew.

I walked to the next bench and sat down.

Everything changes. Nothing stays the same, even if it appears to. My bench is gone, but the memories of the people I sat with there are as close as the air. I sat on the new bench and dreamed excitedly about the changes that await me as I move into this new season..

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