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Walking Windsor: The Bench

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013 | Posted by

(Illustration by Daniel Barba Almeida)

By ROB LOUGHRAN / Special to Towns

In my visits to Windsor’s Riverfront Regional Park, sitting quietly for extended periods on a bench, I’ve seen waddling skunks, impossibly bright-colored kingsnakes and, on several occasions, a skittering fox. Great blue herons (who nest in the trees) flap and squawk during winter. On the Russian River, which skirts the park’s Lake Wilson and Lake Benoist, depending on the season you can spot ducks or drunken canoers.

A few years ago while walking with my 8-year-old granddaughter, Savana, she stopped and said, “I just saw a fairy.”

“That’s nice Savana,” said I, the logical and clear thinking grandfather. “But fairies aren’t real.”

With the solemnity that only an 8-year-old-who truly believes in something can muster, Savana said, “They’re real. I just saw one.”

“I believe you,” I said, not believing her.

We continued our walk down Lake Trail, waving at other hikers, studying the clouds, silently condemning a walker who defiled our cozy and accessible wilderness by talking on a cellphone.

We walked past several benches overlooking Lake Benoist, but we stopped at The Bench.

The benches along Lake Trail all have plaques. But The Bench’s plaque reads:

Tom Weissbluth
1949 — 2009
Sit down. Rest your legs.
Enjoy life. Take a nice big
Gulp of Sonoma County air.

The view from The Bench is a sudden, tree framed, unobstructed panorama of Mount St. Helena. The first time I saw this vista I was delighted and moved by the — no other word works — grandeur. I was also, perhaps, a bit disappointed. Views like this usually require a sacrifice that involves time off work, a passport, air travel, expense, inconvenience and mild groping from a government agent. Moments like this should not exist 10 minutes away from the McDonald’s on the Windsor Green.

But this view from The Bench does.

I’ve sat on Tom Weissbluth’s bench through the years and seasons. I’ve seen Mount St. Helena cloaked in smoke from Lake County fires, green and washed by rain, and covered in bright white snow. I’ve sat there — usually alone, always quiet — and baked in 100-degree heat and shivered in fog that makes you feel as if you are the only person on Earth. I’ve had thoughts that have turned into published books and notions that would get me incarcerated if repeated aloud. There is something about being silent and alone and outside. Something primal and soothing. It’s a challenging, refreshing and underutilized activity.

I’ve visited The Bench in moods ranging from merely antisocial to actively anarchistic, and the wind and water, the trees and sky always magically calm me down. Not the lobotomy-calm of martinis or wine, but a more natural and healthy state of simple appreciation and acceptance.

But the result of The Bench’s infusion of perspective and tranquility isn’t one of acquiescence or denial or defeat, it’s more reclassifying and realizing that the stresses and pain-in-the-rear activities of daily life are unavoidable but ultimately worthwhile.

Life, with its inevitable ups and downs, triumphs and defeats, is simply and always the best game in town.

“I just saw another one,” said Savana.

“Fairies,” I said firmly, “don’t exist.”

That’s when I saw one.

And then another.

And then, a robed warlock.

Gathering beneath the redwoods at the terminus of Lake Trail around long, rough wooden picnic benches that, fittingly, resembled the furnishings of a medieval mead hall, were fairies, warlocks and sorcerers. An assembled group of role players had descended upon the park to enact their elaborately costumed drama.

“You’re right Savana,” I said. “You saw a fairy.”

She nodded with the certitude of an 8-year-old who knew she was right all along. But she never said, “I told you so.”

Riverfront Regional Park is located on Eastside Road in Windsor. Parking is $7, exact change only. Call 565-2041 for hours and information.

Rob Loughran is a Windsor-based author whoses latest book, “Beautiful Lies,” is a murder mystery set in Healdsburg and Windsor. It’s available from Amazon.com.

Writer Spotlight

James Lanaras is our Windsor correspondent.
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