Posted in Air, Change, Earth, Eastern Shore, Fire, Maryland, Mindfulness, Nature, Photography, Portals & Pathways, Quotes, Spirit, Summer, Walking & Wandering, Wonder, Woods

Bench writing


Sit quietly
focus and forget
rest with the great achievement.
The ancient child asks
“what is the great achievement?”
It is beyond description in any language
it can only be felt intuitively
it can only be expressed intuitively.
Engage a loose, alert, and aware
body, mind, and sound
then look into the formless
and perceive no thing.
See yourself as a sphere
small at first
growing to encompass
the vastness of infinite space.
Sit quietly
focus and forget then
in a state of ease and rest
secure the truth of the great achievement.
Employing the truth will not exhaust its power
when it seems exhausted it is really abundant
and while human art will die at the hands of utility
the great achievement is beyond being useful.
Great straightness is curved and crooked
great intelligence is raw and silly
great words are simple and naturally awkward.
Engaged movement drives out the frozen cold
mindful stillness subdues the frenzied heart.
Sit quietly
summon order from the void
that guides the ordering of the universe.

~ Tao Te Ching, Chapter 45, Translated by John Bright-Fey, 2006


Yesterday I went out to the dock with journal and pen, and sat for a while, writing.  I thought I’d share a little with you today.

15 September 2013:  It is a gorgeous day.  Walking to the woods on the way to the dock, I encountered two Red-Spotted Purple butterflies.  There is a place near the beginning of the path that curves around, and you can’t see what’s ahead until you get around the curve.  The butterflies are there, every day, just around the bend.  I’m sure it’s not the same butterflies, although they are always Red-Spotted Purples.  How can I be sure?  Some look worn and  damaged in different locations on their wings, and some are not damaged at all.

Number Two
Number Two

Way back when I took on the challenge of getting outside every day, I bought a bag with a shoulder strap that is big enough to hold a journal, a pen, and a few odds and ends for the camera (extra batteries, a miniature tripod, etc.).  The idea was to find a place to sit while I was outdoors, and journal.  I only did it a few times during that challenge because there were no good places to sit other than the ground.  Not that I mind sitting on the ground, but it was the Bogs and sitting on the ground wasn’t always comfortable (or dry).

September 2013 037a
Sitting near the garden

Here at the Wabi-Sabi Ranch, we acquired several benches when we bought the house and property.  A few of the benches are beyond hope (and sitting on), but three or four of the benches are sound and sturdy, and located in places where one might want to sit and write.  Today I packed the bag with the shoulder strap, putting in it a new journal and one pen (will remember to put an extra in there next time!), walked out to the dock, had a seat on the bench and started writing.

Yesterday's view from the bench on the dock.
Yesterday’s view from the bench on the dock.

I used to dream of being a writer.  Sometimes I still do.  But I’m not sure I have enough words and metaphors to be a writer of any merit.  I love a good metaphor.  I don’t know why they elude me.  I see a shaft of orange sunlight pour through the woods, and I write, “a shaft of orange sunlight poured through the woods,” and then I wonder if there is a better way to write “a shaft of orange sunlight poured through the woods.”  Would a better writer struggle with that, too?

Sunset visits the woods.
Sunset visits the woods.

It is lovely out here on the dock.  Breezy.  The tide is rapidly going out.  The sky is blue and streaked with wispy clouds.  The rustling of the grasses is loud and crispy.  I hear cicadas and crickets, but not a peep, tweet, or chirp from the birds.

Clouds painted on the sky.
Clouds painted on the sky.

Sparkles of sunlight ride the surface of the waves on the water, moving with the leaves, grass, and other bits of nature’s debris being taken out with the tide.  Terrapin heads keep popping up out of the water (up periscope!).  A water snake swims by.  I’ve seen him here before, and think he lives in the bank near the dock.  The water splashes and laps, ripples and waves.  Back Creek almost always seems to be in a hurry, rushing in and out with the tides.

September 2013 017a
Back Creek sparkles in the sun

But there are times in between, just before the tide turns one way or the other, when the creek appears still and on the verge.

The stillness of sunset on Saturday.
The stillness of sunset on Saturday.

Finally!  Birds!  Crows are cawing in the distance.  There must be quite a few of them.  A cacophony of crows.  A gull is sweeping around in the distance, and will probably have flown overhead by the time I finish writing this sentence.  I often wonder how many birds and other creatures live in the marsh and land across from the dock.  Before they disappeared in August, Red-Winged Blackbirds could be seen perched on the tops of the rushes.  Swallows swooped over the water and around the dock.  A Great Blue Heron lives somewhere over in the marsh.  I can hear her now, and have seen her flying in and out of the corner of the marsh near the neighbor’s boathouse.

A leaf in the woods.
A leaf in the woods.

It’s time to make my way back to the house now.  M has been building a foundation for a little building to house the new water softener and filter that will be arriving on Wednesday.  Our drinking water is brackish, and reminds me of childhood summers at the shore.  I’ll stop by to see if he needs any help with bricks or mortar.  If not, I’ll keep him company for a bit and offer some moral support.  The dinner hour will swing around soon.  I made an empty-the-fridge vegetable soup before going out for my walk so all we have to do is heat it and eat it.

September 2013 060a

After dinner, I will watch the sunset, perhaps from the bench on the platform.  I won’t bring the journal or camera along.  Sometimes I prefer to sit, and just be.

Goodbye, Sun.
Goodbye, Sun.



Robin is a photographer, artist, writer, wife, sometime poet, mom, grandma, daughter, sister, friend, and occasional traveler currently living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She finished a 365 commitment to get outside every day in 2011, and has turned it into a lifelong commitment taking one or more walks each day. Robin will continue to share her walks through her words and images on Breezes at Dawn. Older posts can be found at Life in the Bogs, her previous blog. Robin and her husband are in the midst of renovating the house and property they refer to as the Wabi-Sabi Ranch, 35 acres that include marsh, a dock on a tidal creek, meadows, and woodlands. Every day brings new discoveries.

27 thoughts on “Bench writing

  1. Oh, Robin, this is lovely, so, so lovely. You ARE a writer, and, of course, we all struggle with how to describe things, wonder if what we’ve said is adequate to capture the experience. My favorite image in this post is –“a cacophony of crows.” That’s an exquisite line!

    Hugs from Ecuador,


    1. Thank you so much, Kathy. I really appreciate your comment. I didn’t mean to reach out for reassurance so much as share what was on my mind, and my insecurities when it comes to writing. To be honest, I even have trouble calling myself a photographer. Crazy, right? But sometimes it sounds so… I don’t know. Pretentious? Unreal? Sometimes I attribute that to the fact that I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. 😀


  2. Ah, Robin. Yes. This is such lovely writing. I envisioned you sitting there, on one of the benches that is still suitable for sitting, and writing a bit.

    I did the very same thing this afternoon. After a hike through one of the yellow-flowering prairies, I rested on a bench near the shore of Madison’s Lake Mendota and wrote in my journal. I;m reading a wonderful book, The Art of Pilgrimage, and it’s inspired many a recent walk…


    1. Sounds like a wonderful way to spend an afternoon, Bo. 🙂 I’ve decided to make a habit of bench writing. There’s something about the fresh air that makes the pen move more smoothly over the paper. 🙂

      I’ve added The Art of Pilgrimage to my ever-expanding list of books to read. Thank you. It sounds like an interesting and thought-provoking read.


  3. Yes, you are a writer! In your own way, which we love …. and would not want to change at all … then you might not bring us all the beautiful quotes to illustrate your poetic photography and transport us so effortlessly every day from the tiny concerns of daily life to the joy of Being that we truly are 🙂


  4. “when the creek appears still and on the verge” is something only a writer would spill. You live in a beautiful place with so much energy and yet so much peace. Thank you for sharing this. I’m reading at the end of a very frenetic work day and you have given me strength for the commute home. And you’ve given me a smile which is even more valuable.


  5. I like your thoughts, and your writing, and your pictures. And to keep coming back for more, says a lot about your ability. And what’s wrong with “a shaft of orange sunlight poured through the woods.” Seems to nail it perfectly! 😉


  6. This is a beautiful post, Robin. Sometimes, I think being a witness and not an interpretor is the true path of the writer. I thin it is more difficult to see and witness and communicate than any other calling. Just my perspective 🙂


  7. I love you words and your photos – a beautiful post. What a great idea to try to get out every day with a journal. This day certainly was wonderful – and wonderfully captured in words and photos.


  8. I love the butterfly and background in photo “Number Two” – lately the combination of blues and earth tones stirs something inside me… Your words and pictures are always thoughtful and inspiring, echoing everyone else here, you are most certainly both a writer and a photographer!


Comments are delightful and always appreciated. I will respond when I can (life is keeping me busy!), and/or come around to visit you at your place soon. Thank you!

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