“Finding this bench and these notebooks is a beautiful way for the universe to say ‘you’re in the right place at the right time with the right person.” Journal entry, March 1, 2014
It looks like most of the other benches that were thoughtfully installed all along the shore, but there is much more to see here. The view is complicated because there is a beach and a lagoon and another shoreline across the way. That is probably why people spend relatively more time here, the view along with the journals stuffed into a plain black mailbox tucked under the bench. In case you want to take your turn writing about what is on your mind, there also are plenty of pens and pencils.
There is some mystery to how long there have been journals at this spot and about how it started, how people came to jot down their reflections, share their memories, make promises and profess undying love. It’s a mystery to me, at least. I just learned of the journals the other day, thanks to a Partisan reader who apparently felt I needed some inspiration or, at the least, to be more productive.
I assume there are many people out there in Carmel and Pebble Beach, Carmel Highlands and Pacific Grove who know all about the journals, have known about them for years. Someone reading this will probably say something like, “Hey, get this. That guy who has that Partisan blog, he didn’t know about the bench with the journals. Sheesh.” But I’ll take my chances. Having read through most of the seven or eight little journals currently in the box, I feel somewhat fortified, and so I will not worry about such things.
“I came from Iran, a beautiful land, but find your Pacific coast the most breathtaking of all that I have seen.” Azadeh, May 25, 2012
More than anything else, the journals contain expressions of gratitude — for the view, the bench itself, the beauty of the Monterey Peninsula, for friends and family and the ability to be able to live or visit here. There are many references to previous trips to the Peninsula for celebration of birthdays and anniversaries.
“What a surprise! Such a wonderful surprise. I come to Monterey to heal, find myself and grow. Carmel is where I come and grow with AP. We walk, share and grow. Today I am 7 weeks pregnant. Unexpected. Not married. Afraid. What will happen to baby and me? Moments like today, finding these notebooks, brings me peace. I can’t describe it but I know everything’s going to be OK.”
The next entry.
“You will be fine. I did it when I was 18 years old. My son is a strong man now with two children of his own. Stay strong and focused. Love your baby.”
Those were recent entries. The journals in the mailbox at the moment date to 2012 but I suspect many were filled before these. I hope they are in a safe place. The bench seems to have been there since the 1950s. You likely noticed that I haven’t said exactly where it is. That is not an oversight. Part of the charm is that most people seem to have stumbled onto the journals accidentally or to have been told about them by a friend or relative. Even this amount of publicity in this obscure blog could threaten this little gift, so it seems best to let people guess at the location. Better a discovery than a target.
Not everything written in these journals is special. Some is downright mundane. Thankfully and surprisingly, there is little about Carmel beating P.G. High in football and nothing at all about politics, presidential or otherwise. There are, however, a lot of exclamation points.
“Cool mail idea! This is an amazing view. I’m here with my boyfriend for his 21st birthday. This has been such a fun trip and he means the world to me. I hope we can come and read this years later. We’re going to get drunk tonight and write more!”
Many of the entries are messages for loved ones, past and present.
“Visiting a friend this weekend. Tomorrow is Mothers Day and mine has been gone for nine years. Miss her every day.”
“Walked by this place with dad so many times but we seldom had time to sit. When I get the chance to sit here now, I start to talk to him sometimes, but mostly we just sit.”
“Hon – today your ashes have been put on Pebble beach, a place you were so happy to have been able to play golf. I am so fortunate to have Jeff and Eric bring me here to see what you raved about! I will always love you.”
Some entries are letters to grandparents long gone. Some are apologies. One young man felt horrible about quarreling with his mother the night before as he headed out on a long trip and he apparently felt that writing out his apology would make at least one of them feel better.
A remarkable number of entries mention healing, mostly the emotional or spiritual kinds. Clearly, spending some time on a bench overlooking the sea gave some the time they needed to contemplate their troubles and, in quite a few cases, the solutions.
‘Sitting here with my mother, considering myself very lucky. Both because I live in this special place and that I can enjoy it with my mom. Welcome to everyone and we look forward to seeing the peace on your face that this bench can bring.”
“Here I am. Almost two years ago I watched my beautiful daughter get married to a wonderful man who has become my son. Today we are here again but with the newest member of our family, Jaxon, who is almost three week old. Life doesn’t get much better than this!”
“Life has returned me to my home. Born in Carmel Community Hospital on Hwy 1 in 1953. Dr. Stoddard. Many marriages, 5 children, love, heartbreaks, Sept. 11 in 2001, and home to find my bench. A place I can breathe, reflect on my childhood, family and friends!”
One woman wrote about being there with her dog, which would not live through the day. She wrote that she wanted him to see the ocean one more time.
There are entries in Spanish, Italian, German and Chinese. Some entries are just random
“Jolly and Ivan and Vanessa and the humpback whales are smoking cigarettes.”
Ray Bradbury died today. Long live books. June 5, 2012.
Some visitors declared their love of the person sitting beside them.
He wrote: “I like bumble bees. Brianna is scared of them. It’s funny because I tell her they are the nice ones, but she doesn’t believe me. But that’s why I love her. The bumble bee just flew by again, and she grabbed my arm and shrieked, in a cute way. Sitting here with her, on a day almost as beautiful as she is, is as happy as I’ve been.”
She wrote: “Bumble bees scare me. But the bee buzzing around me doesn’t take away the fact that this is the best trip that I have taken in a long time and one of the most beautiful views I have experienced. Henry says he loves me, and I know he means it. I love him, too. I am so grateful to be able to share this with him. He makes me truly happy. I’ve never felt this way before.”
Here are some more:
“Few views are worth watching forever. I could watch this forever and a day. “BK, age 12.
“Slowing down, looking around, enjoying the sound of our feet on the ground.” Brooke. Vermont
“I stopped here to remove the sand from my shoes and realized that more had been removed – the stress has left, for a few, wonderful, delicious moments. It is really true that the simplest of moments can be the most memorable. This has, at least for the moment, refocused me, this nice little spot that I will alway remember.”
“I love you Jenny Benson.”
There were some attempts at poetry. Perhaps I will find some successful attempts in the journals I have not read yet.
As a writer of sorts, I was on the lookout for interesting writing. I found lots of touching writing, inspirational writing, even funny writing, but not much writing to write home about. This was my favorite:
“Last night my snowy egret came to see me. She tapped on my window three times with her ebony beak. I met her at the garden gate. She brought strawberries and I brought fresh bread. We walked to the river. She fed me strawberries from her lovely yellow feet while she pecked the warm bread from my hand. She told me of her adventures on island marshes and I shared with her the perils of raising fairy children in a human world. We swam in the effervescent waters and sipped honeysuckle nectar from delicate little cones. At dawn, I climbed on her back and we flew to the moon.”
I liked these, too.
“My turn! The sirens were everywhere this morning so I have walked down to this wonderful spot not sure what was in store, but it was a training exercise for fire and rescue personnel, the best answer possible to that drama. So now the sky has cleared, the sea is calm, the newspapers today full of complaints about smelly kelp, bags of dog poop left where everyone knows they shouldn’t bee, but NOTHING can mar the beauty that Carmel offers to all.”
“In the morning, I will wake early to join my daughter and her daughter, my oldest grandchild, in a long drive to Phoenix to begin another school year. Fourteen hours, two cars and too much “stuff.” Am I old enough to have a grandchild in college? The answer is self evident. For it is two weeks now after cataract surgery at Stanford and for the first time in years I see my face clearly and in technicolors that I had only viewed dimly, and there is my full answer to my rhetorical question. Blessed am I!”
“When I find the father of my children I will bring him here to show him a place that struck me in the most beautiful way.”
“My husband and I first came to this spot in 1992, a long or short time depending on how you look at things. In that time, nothing has changed but, then again, everything has.”
Next time I’m there, maybe I’ll write something myself.