At what seems like the top of an endless hill in Foothills Park (Gate 4), there is a bench. I’d ran by the bench in the day enough times that I used to think nothing of it, barely notice it. One evening, however, I decided to pull off at the Gate 4 on my way down from Russian Ridge, to watch the sunset. And this time, I finally noticed the plaque, and that, in fact, this is not just any bench but the Kay and David Bench.

Bench Plaque lit by sunset colors: To My Lovely Wife KAY. 50 Years together! From Her Loving DAVID

To My Lovely Wife Kay.
50 Years Together!
From her loving David.

Reading this plaque made me realize that, sometimes, we don’t appreciate the beauty around us, until we find it in the right context, in the right time and place. Seeing this message in particular - which I could have read before, but never quite did - in the midst of a gorgeous sunset, I think, helped me to understand what it means to love.

Those three words, “50 Years Together!” are a perfect way to appreciate and reflect on the deep, yet simple, elegant complexities of love. On the surface, any given moment of affection may seem almost trivial. A coffee, kiss, cuddle are each gone in an instant. Blink and the sunset falls to night.

And yet, over a long timeframe - one discovers the sum of all these externally-facing, visible, simple, small moments must rest on an internally-facing scaffolding of commitment, appreciation, and satisfaction with the other that allows those moments to continue, year after year after year. Love is taking in each moment, and allowing it to pause now to rest in its current role as exclamation point, settling onto the end of all the “Years Together” leading up to now.

So, Love is now. But love also won’t stop here, not at this time.

And also, not at this place: the love creates a space for others, too.

Kay and David Bench, with Tree overlooking the San Francisco Bay at Sunset.

That image of the tree by the bench is also, partly, what it means to love. Somehow, the love spills out into everything you do, it serves as a wellspring of goodness and grace that ripples back out into the world in all these small ways, slowly, over time; it’s within you but also out of you, like that tree growing up steadily next to the bench, where people can sit and soak in a quiet view or even a lovely sunset, pausing in the shelter of the shade of the ever-growing branches, for a brief respite from sweat and the California heat not too unlike life.

In sum, Love means, this present moment: the intersection straddling a reminiscient appreciation of moments past, and dedication to the moments to come. The fleeting sunset rolling through the hills, which, given the right attention, took my breath away, minute by minute approaching “50 Years Together!”

The view from the David and Kay bench overlooking the bay, at sunset. The fog rolls in over the mountains, and the sky is a light pink.