As darkness settles, the air grows cool and crisp, promising rain later to those who can feel it in their bones and guaranteeing a cold night for those who can’t. The smell of the air becomes almost a living thing, damp and thick; the smells are of the ponds, of the moist greenery, faint smoke coming from far off, and lastly, the smell of woods in the night. It all smells musty, in a cold sort of way, as if the whole outside world has become the den in an old house.
The woods in the night are magical. Bare though they are of leaves, they brim with a foreign power, a promise of mystery, adventure and danger that can be found in their depths. The branches of the trees seem to be like a hundred arms reaching out towards the sky, some leaning down and beckoning to the watcher to come in, to look closer.
The prospect of being lost in those woods is both frightening and enchanting. There is a feeling that anything could happen amongst the tree trunks, between the wild roots, inside knotholes. The onlooker can easily be hypnotized, drawn into the New England woodlands as if by invisible Fae. With the right sort of courage, perhaps those wild creatures could be discovered.
Think of a bench you know. Just a bench, a regular bench – just made of some planks of wood and a few rusty nails. Picture this bench that you see every day, on your way to work or the supermarket, and never think about twice. And now, indulge me for a moment, and really think about it. There is life in that bench.
A thousand people have sat on that bench. Hundreds have put their arms around the back of it, or perched on the edge of it, or lay down upon it. So many have stopped to tie their shoes there, or put down their grocery bags on it for a moment, or even walked along on top it for fun.
This bench, this commonplace, every day object has witnessed so much: Old men sitting on it and schmoozing for hours, watching the world go by; Old women putting down their purses on it and waiting there for the bus into town; Children have walked on it, holding their parents’ hands and squealing, feeling so high up; Those same children, years later, sitting on it and fervently passing a cigarette around late at night, feeling naughty; The homeless have made homes of it; The drunkards have made beds of it; The mad have had conversations with it; The weather has, of course, never shown it one bit of mercy.
This bench has probably encountered more people than we will speak to in a lifetime. This bench, in a way, has held more life than we will ever know upon its rickety wooden planks, carved and scratched and scarred as they are, holding the memories of hundreds upon hundreds. This bench is more alive and full of memory and experience than we will ever be able to comprehend.