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BenchTalk: Wisdoms Inspired in Nature
For 25 years, stirred by nature, people from all walks of life, young and old, have been jotting down their wishes and worries, their grief and gratitude in little yellow journals. Waiting to be discovered by passersby, these waterproof journals are tucked beneath benches in Sacred Places. The entries left behind are a snapshot of what happens when we pause, if only for a moment, in nature. For the first time, you can enjoy these insights and inspirations — these unique reminders of our common humanity — wherever you are. Drawing from the thousands of entries that have been archived from prisons, hospitals, universities and neighborhoods, we have selected some of the most memorable to publish as BenchTalk: Wisdoms Inspired in Nature.
“When I close my eyes at home, I hear neighbors yelling, parents fussing, siblings whining, and doors slamming,” writes one of the many anonymous authors of BenchTalk, an inviting collection of celebrations and musings left by visitors to over 100 green and contemplative “Sacred Spaces” created in the last quarter decade by Nature Sacred. That writer continued, penning their words on a waterproof journal left for just this purpose at Baltimore’s Northeast Interfaith Peace Garden: “When I close my eyes at home, I feel hurt, fury, doubts, and mistrust … When I close my eyes here, I feel weariness wash away, peace within, serenity all around, and well-being at heart.”

Such moments of peace abound in BenchTalk, as a host of note-leavers relish being—briefly—away from the concerns of their lives. “Those trees, these turtles, they don’t care about politics,” one writes from Waterworks Park in Annapolis, Maryland. “They don’t worry about how they’re going to pay their bills … . And while we’re here, we get to feel that too, even if it’s just for a minute.” Other notes offer life advice (“Don’t rush—Listen instead of talking”), welcome encouragement (“You make joy and peace from the chaos. One can not exist without the other”), and bursts of playful mystery.

The feeling throughout this secular devotional is of a yearning for escape and connection—even during these brief respites, as they attest to the nourishing power of nature, the authors often seem a touch melancholic, all too aware that the moment is passing even as they commemorate it. That tendency serves as a welcome reminder of the urgency of Nature Sacred’s mission and that such moments shouldn’t be so rare in our lives. Introductory material introduces the mission of Nature Sacred, and the notes are accompanied by joyous unsigned sketches of bees, butterflies, sailboats, and more. A few notes are fully reproduced, in the authors’ original handwriting.

Takeaway: Rousing notes from everyday people’s encounters with a refuge in nature.

Comparable Titles: Hannah Anderson’s Turning of Days, Davy Rothbart’s Found.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A