Last summer, something rather peculiar began appearing around a few of Atlanta's public places: Moleskine notebooks, unattended, paired with a pen and tethered to a bench with bright-pink string, inviting passersby to "share their inner(or outer)most thoughts." Needless to say, our curiosity was piqued. And as we scribbled our own "Dear Diary" entry, we had to wonder: who did we have to thank for such a delightful surprise?
The culprit: one Dessa Lohrey, whose fascination with both childhood diaries and the idle thoughts of strangers led her to create the citywide project we now know as Bench Diary. "When I'm out and about, I'm always imagining what people are thinking when I'm passing them on the sidewalk or when they're sitting on a bench in the park," Dessa explains. "I was curious to see what Atlantans were willing to share with strangers." So, she set out to find out (in the least-creepy way possible, that is). One afternoon in June, Dessa ventured to Piedmont Park, the Old Fourth Ward Skatepark, and Cabbagetown, toting four brand-new notebooks that she then tied to benches in each area. Each came back with freshly added entries, and only one had the misfortune of being peed upon. (Pretty decent odds in our book.)
Since that day last summer, Bench Diary has collected over one hundred reflections, recollections, words of wisdom, and other scribbles from Atlantans of all kinds. From the illegible scrawlings of a Morningside 5-year-old to musings from a 92-year-old East Atlanta Village resident, the project's participants have spanned a vast range of ages and walks of life. And, unsurprisingly, so have their entries.
Over less than a year, 25 diaries have born witness to doodles, poems, celebrations, and rants. Others wax poetic about their settings (in some cases, right down to the bench itself). "It's interesting to see how Atlanta inspires some people," Dessa says.
But for this project, Atlanta may only be the start. After traversing 25 different benches across the city, Dessa is already looking into spreading Bench Diary across the country and, possibly, the globe, especially after a recent article on Good resulted in an overwhelming response from willing participants from around the world. Interested in helping Dessa spread the Bench Diary love here at home? Hit her up, take a gander at Bench Diary on Facebook and Instagram, and learn more about the project in her recent Pecha Kucha presentation below: