A Photograph with a Story

Two Benches

Two Benches © 2011 Bo Mackison

Many of my photographs have a story.

This photograph of two benches — one near and in focus, one far away and blurry — it has a story.

I had a long conversation with an elderly gentleman just before I took this photograph.

Often I am so focused on the plants in the gardens, I don’t spend much time interacting with other visitors. We exchange smiles and hellos, and we go on our separate ways. But this man stopped me as I was setting up a photo, and asked if he could ask me some questions. Expecting questions about my camera or lenses, I nodded and continued to adjust my tripod.

“I saw you back there, sitting on the bricks in that garden. You were staring at the plants,” he stated.

This wasn’t the conversation I was expecting, but he was polite and he was wearing a tweed jacket in the 85˚ heat. I’m not sure why I think tweed jackets vouch for a gentleman’s conversation, but I do. I stopped and listened more carefully.

“So what were you doing? You weren’t resting. There was a bench right there. Not pulling weeds.”

I shook my head. “No.”

“Most people your age, um, I mean no disrespect, but your generation, they don’t sit on the ground looking at eggplants.” He raised his eyebrows quizzically, and I laughed out loud as he “pulled a face” – the description my grandfather once used when describing the faces I made.

I agreed again. “No, not too many people study eggplants, sitting on the sidewalk. Grocery store’s more likely.”

“So were you praying or just looking mighty hard at that eggplant?” He thought a second, and said in a whisper, “Guess might be ’bout same thing.”

I smiled again. Seemed everything he said made me smile. I told him I was studying the way the leaves wound around some of the stems. I was looking at the way the sunlight cast leafy shadows on the plants and comparing the different shades of green with the rusty spots left by bugs of some sort.

“Thought you might be a real one.” He grinned at me as I frowned. “You know, a photographer. You ever take pictures of benches?”

I told him I enjoyed photographing benches, doors, paths, that sort of thing. Especially in gardens.

He nodded. Turned serious.

“I was sitting on that bench over there awhile, the one half under that tree.” I looked where he pointed. “I sit there some days, just sit and look. Talk to an old friend. Not out loud.” He cast his eyes toward the pavement. “That wouldn’t look right.”

 When his gaze returned to me, he saw the question in my eyes.

“He was a good friend of mine. We were in the Marines together, fought in the “Big One”. Enlisted together, got discharged together, came home to Madison together. Married, had kids, grandkids, huh, great-grandkids. All that.

“After we retired, we’d walk this garden, talk. It was quiet. We liked quiet. You go look. That bench, it’s a memorial to my friend. You might take a picture sometime.”

I asked if he wanted his photo taken on the bench. He shook his head.

I picked up my camera gear and walked over to the bench. I looked back, he nodded at me, did a quick salute, and walked away.

I sat down awhile, studied the bench, looked around, then I took a picture of his bench.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and the owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. This story gave me a chill. A good chill. I believe certain people/angels are sent to tell their story, to communicate on some level. Similar has happened to me and, this sounds quirky, but when it happened the world sorta came to a standstill, and it was just me and that person. I’m saying this all wrong, sorry. What an amazing encounter. How like you to stop and listen, and then take this remarkable photo.

  2. That is amazing Bo..a beautiful story and image !!

  3. That is a great story and the photo matches it. As with Debi it gave me a bit of a chill and reflection on the WW II generation that is passing into the ages.

  4. Joanne Keevers says:

    Well Bo, I call the chill that Gandalf and Debi spoke of “goosebumps” and yes, it happened to me too. What a lovely story you have told. Old people have so much to offer and they have usually reached a certain calm which us younger folk can only dream of. 🙂

  5. Love the story. Such a lovely and perfect compliment to the photo.

  6. so dreamy and sweet

  7. What a fantastic story to accompany your lovely photograph — thanks for sharing them both, Bo!

  8. Thank you. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story and lovely image.

Leave a Reply