It is just about time for Island benches to be filled with sitters. There are benches on overlooks and benches in parks, benches in woods and benches in towns — and of course there are benches at Vineyard Transit Authority stops.
Some benches perch on wrought iron legs and may even have elaborate wrought iron backs. Some have seats constructed of slats. Some — usually memorial benches — are made of stone and may be backless. Among Island memorial benches are one for Henry Beetle Hough at Sheriff’s Meadow in Edgartown. It looks out over Sheriff’s Meadow Pond, John Butler’s Mud Hole and Nantucket Sound. At this time of year, a keen-eyed occupant of that bench may see a painted turtle climbing up from the mud hole and burying eggs in the grass. There also are Edgartown memorial benches to tennis player and Harborside boatyard manager David Chase near the town tennis courts and to devoted seasonal resident Dan Sullivan at Sheriff’s Meadow.
In West Tisbury, a memorial bench to longtime selectman Allen M. Look has a view of the still waters of the Mill Pond. At Cedar Tree Neck there are more memorial benches — another one to Mr. Hough, and one to Oak Bluffs summer dweller Peter C. Gardner that affords an unobstructed view across Vineyard Sound. An Ames family bench overlooks Ames Pond. There are undoubtedly others across the Island, all tributes to individuals who are missed.
Along Main street in Edgartown, wooden benches are put to good use in winter as well as summer. The people who frequent these benches tend to be locals interested in the comings and goings of their neighbors and in catching up with local gossip.
Benches on South Summer and North Water streets are for enjoying ice cream and sandwiches or for sipping coffee or a cold drink. Before library reconstruction began, there was a bench dedicated to Maurita Prada where an impatient person could start reading the volume she had just checked out.
In Edgartown, there are also benches across from the Harbor View Hotel. From these, early birds can watch the sun rise over Cape Pogue and the Edgartown Light. The comings and goings of boats in the harbor can be followed from wharf benches.
Oak Bluffs has a sizable complement of benches too. There are those for yacht-watchers along Lake Anthony while just across from Ocean Park, a bench affords a view of the ferry arriving and departing. And of course there are benches just for enjoying the park’s floral plantings or taking an afternoon snooze. These benches are a good place to tie shoelaces.
East Chop has a bench behind the lighthouse for those who like to watch the sailboats in the Sound. West Chop has one at the flagpole for seeing the sun set over the Middle Ground. From the Owen Park benches in Vineyard Haven, the moon-viewing is splendid.
Bench-sitters at Aquinnah Park can see the combers of the Atlantic in the distance on windy days and seagulls swooping.
In Menemsha, the dockside benches are perfectly situated to keep an eye on fishing boats and sail and motor yachts. They are also fine for cracking open fresh boiled lobsters from the Mememsha Fish Market or Larsen’s and picnicking.
Benches outside Leslie’s Drugstore in Vineyard Haven and in front of the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore are ideal for traffic viewers or for watching the police slip tickets under the windshield wipers of scofflaws who overstay parking limits. These are good benches for catching up on newspaper reading too.
Sometimes, of course, a bench may cease to be appreciated if sat on too long. Martha‘s Vineyard Regional High School graduation attendees should remember to take a plump cushion as well as a camera to the annual festivities. But one generally doesn’t look to benches for long-term comfort anyway. They are for short-term use and enjoyment.
And what we would miss if we had to do without them!