I'm a bridge
I saw a bench by the Thames. It was worn from use, from backs and butts brushing and bumping against the wood over years. It was made of two thick planks, fastened to an iron frame. The iron was curved and well supported by cross bars, yet economical in the use of material. The bars made curved negative spaces in the air, and it stood on strong, circular feet. It looked like an English dog on alert. It stood on a wide stone pedestal, raised from the path with room to take a step when approaching and leaving.
The bench says, “I am a bench. You can sit here and I will support you, as I have countless times before. No one will disturb you here, this is your place to rest, if you want. I stand here in the wind and rain all day and night. I am a bench.”
The bench sat facing south toward the river and Hammersmith Bridge. The bridge was closed for repairs, only open to pedestrians. On either end, its columns stood on the rocky, sandy edges of the Thames. The columns were clad in “Victorian splendor”, tints of green and blue, ornamented with gold lines, fish scale motifs, and florid crowns, like a great serpent breaking the surface. A bright streak of metal highlighted the bridge’s shadowy belly from shore to shore, and lamps dotted the path along its spine.
Even in its resting state of repair, the bridge says, “I am a bridge. You can cross here, and I will support you, as I have for centuries. You can make your way swiftly across to reach your destination. I am a bridge, and I will be a bridge longer than all who cross me will live.”
At the Victoria & Albert museum, I saw a door. It hung on the wall, its timber panels breathing in the patchwork sun. A skeletal frame wrapped around the central opening, a skull-like structure supporting the threshold of the wooden jaw, four square windows above for a nose. And inside the membrane of the main panels, a smaller door, maybe for everyday use, or for children. Two beams emerged from the top, creating a reaching embrace, inviting you to approach. At the bottom threshold, a single beam curved not from weight but from the wear of endless feet crossing to an interior. And finally two floral carvings, subtle and almost faded with time, lend a hint of softness and home within the strong exterior.
The door says, “I am a door. I am in my twilight, and you cannot pass through here. But I am a door still. I am here to be an example of what life can be. Please make more doors like me—strong, warm, and alive.”
I forget how strong a center can be. How proudly a bench can be a bench, a bridge can be a bridge, a door can be a door. The depth and commitment to doing what we can with what we have, to make something that lives for as long as it can. It’s refreshing to meet the Quality Without a Name.