SOMETIMES when I'm sitting on my hillside bench, most of the rest of the world fades away. The leaf falling and small lizard rustling become more important than superpower headlines or even what I must do tomorrow. I can lie on my bench; it's a foot longer than I am; and on warm days its granite coolness feels good against my back as I look up at tree lace against the sky.
However most of the time I sit, content to listen and watch as a multitude of creatures fly and scurry, the wind bounces leaves on the opposite hillside, and ripple circles widen in the tiny pond where our creek pauses below me in the valley.
The bench is, as I am, a refugee from the city a hundred miles away. It was left at a demolition site and workers there were glad not to have to load one more heavy pile of stone.
I needed the help of good friends to bring it to rest among the trees on the edge of the valley below our house. Visitors marvel that only four of us were able to move it here, and thinking back, I marvel, too. The bench is in every sense a monument to the strength of friendship.
Back in the city it is too easy to ignore everything but the necessities of a busy life. Time to commune with nature is not so easily won no matter how great the reward.
In the city the weight of concrete, metal, and glass makes the natural world difficult to find. Trees and flowers must be planned for; clouds are noticed most when a storm is forecast; and bugs and growing grass are often more annoyance than pleasure.
Here on the bench everything easily fades away except the cloud and tree and flower. The beetle and spider are marvelous neighbors working at living, and the grass, tall and unbothered, nods in the breeze.
Even I can fade away here. After I sit quietly for a few minutes, the chipmunks and squirrels ignore me as they move about doing their gathering and storing. Here they are the ones who hurry, but I don't feel out of place in this landscape full of creatures at work. I am at work, too, though busy in thought and not with hands and feet.
Sometimes I read about a president who is away at a mountain resort, a prime minister who has gone fishing, or a party chairman who visits the seashore; and it's all right with me that they vacation.
I hope that they, like so many others, have chosen to take time to let this natural world with its understandable order speak, as it always does.
They must surely know, as I do, sitting on my bench, that we are rewarded more here for using our eyes and ears than our mouths.