The Simple Joy of Public Sitting

A love letter to the best benches, boulders, lawns, and ledges in our lives and the settings that make them special.

I do a lot of writing (and working) on the subjects of walking and biking, but in my current state of health I’m not able to do very much of either.  In this void, I have renewed my interest and appreciation for great seats.  Not for the casual, inert kind of sitting.  I’m talking about really special seats – places with the perfect blending of people, perch, and pondering.

Where are your best benches?  What makes a great seat for you?  Is it all about the people watching?  Does a great sit need great scenery?   Is quiet meditation and inspiration the secret ingredient?  This seat is near the top of my list, and it’s got a little bit of everything – a lakeside promenade bench with great people watching, good shade, and alpine views.

Here’s another one of my best benches.  I like to think about how this bench got here.  Someone came to this spot and stopped to take a seat.  They were moved by this view.  They were so moved that they wanted to share the experience with others and decided other people should get to sit here too.  They built a bench and trekked it up a mountain to place it here as invitation for everyone who stumbles upon it.  I happily accepted that invitation to sit here and was moved in turn by the experience.

Sitting is something we have been doing for a very long time, stretching back beyond history and civilization.  The ancient Gauls, Greeks, and Romans sat on this very old bench!  Thousands of years of sitting have worn an indentation on the top.

A millennium later, guards perched on this prominent point when they needed a break from defending the Mediterranean coast.  Today they are joined by these nearby waterfall-spanning lounge chairs, where you can watch the waves with this elegant stone woman.

Sometimes you want to sit alone.  But sometimes having someone to sit with and share an ice cream while you watch the ducks makes all the difference.

There are many quality sits in my former home of Kansas City.

Kansas City’s sidewalks are…ahem…not its best attribute…but you can still find some good sidewalk seating around town.  Unfortunately, much of the best sidewalk seating is private.

Not to be outdone, my new home of Annecy is also a lovely place to sit.

Sometimes you have to make your own seat.

Sidewalk sits are classic.  “Old men playing chess” is one of the coveted achievements for aspiring public spaces.

If enough people are sitting, you need an entire plaza.

People also love sitting along rivers.

If enough people are sitting along the water, it’s time for a promenade.

Since everyone loves promenades, San Antonio just went ahead and made the entire downtown a promenade.

If too many people sit you have to stack them.

If it gets REALLY crowded you have to sit in the trees.

Some seats are so popular they become international tourist attractions.

Scenery sits are just as important as city sits.  Logs, rocks, snow – almost anything can be a seat if you try hard enough.

Seaside sits might be the most popular variety of scenery sits.

Lakeside sits are also very popular.

Something about a dock or boardwalk compels people to dangle their legs and dip their toes.

Sometimes sitting next to the water is not enough.  You need to sit on the water.  For these scenarios, try a good bridge bench.

Log seats are versatile and fun.

If you like log seats, why not go straight to the source with a good forest seat?

One of the perks of forest sitting is great shade.  If a seat does not begin its life in the shade, it often ends up there eventually.

Parks bring scenery sits back into the city for your convenience.

Grass makes a very popular seat, but if you are not allowed on the grass, sitting next to it is also a thing.

People will even sit on pretend grass if the real thing is unavailable.

Some prefer a blanket for their grass sits, especially when accompanied by a picnic.

Picnic tables are another timeless option for hungry sitting.

If the ground below is a bit too far away, steps and stoops are popular seat choices.

Sometimes you want to sit up high, not down low.  There is a lot to see from a good vista seat.

Walls and ledges make great seats

When the walls are close, alleys can squeeze in some good sitting too.

Do you ever feel like even sitting is too much?  The public lounge chair might be the solution for you.

Sometimes you need a seat when you are waiting for a ride.

If your seat is on rails, you can lounge while you ride.

Art is kind of like man-made scenery, so it’s no surprise people enjoy a good art sit.

Sometimes the seats themselves are art, like this bench made of old skis.

Tiny seats can make small people feel big, while giant seats can make big people feel small.

Seats are found in all kinds of unexpected shapes and places.  You might sit on a bench for a street piano, or in a caboose.  You can catch some sun lounging on a snowy spring mountaintop, or even sit on a mechanical bull in a gas station parking lot.  You can sit atop a fortress wall or you could literally sit on the fence. The possibilities are endless!

Finally, if you live well you might be honored with a permanent seat where you can keep an eye on things far into the future.

What about you?  What do you think makes a great sitting experience?  Where in the world have you found the best public seats?  What made them special?  Share below in the comments!

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