DEL MAR — Disney has “The Love Bug.” The B-52s have “Love Shack.” And thanks to Nana Hinsley, Del Mar now has the “Love Bench.”
The amorously themed seat, perched above Dog Beach in the north end of the city, offers spectacular views and a quiet setting where people can “just hang out and meditate.”
“And if you’re with someone it’s kind of my hope that you might get really present with that person, whether it’s your granddaughter or your husband or your friend, and just be really grateful in the moment for that time together,” Hinsley said. “I would love it if people would propose up there or renew their vows up there.”
Originally from Arizona, Hinsley spent most of her life in Carmel Valley, where she raised her two children, Chanel and Dino, whose names are part of the inscription on the bench.
“We used to go to Del Mar all the time,” she said. “Every week we took the kids to the beach in front of Poseidon (restaurant). All our friends would come, and they’d bring their kids and we’d picnic. It just became an institution.
“One day I was leaving the beach and I was using one of the benches,” she added. “I noticed that it was dedicated to somebody who’d passed away and I thought, ‘Gosh, I would love to have a bench.’ Maybe not do it for someone who’s passed but maybe to celebrate our family or something to that affect.”
Hinsley, an Internet marketing specialist for a local plastics company, called the city about eight years ago asking how she could sponsor a bench. She was told they were all “spoken for” and the families renew their commitments annually.
“They told me there likely wouldn’t be any future opportunities unless benches were added at other locations,” Hinsley said. “So I put my name on a waiting list.
“I sort of gave up the thought that I could ever have a bench,” she added. “And I’ll be darned. This past March the phone rings and it’s … the city of Del Mar telling me five benches are being added to Dog Beach.”
Hinsley was the third person on the waiting list. The first two claimed the two benches on the sand. Two others were close to the street.
“The other one was the one I chose, which is up on the bluff,” she said. “It’s kind of obscure. You don’t necessarily know it’s there unless you take the stairs up.
“It was more important to me that the location be where you could really find a peaceful spot to hang out,” she explained. “The ones that were by the road there’s a lot of activity going on.
“So if you’re sitting on the bench you’re probably going to be consumed with what’s going on in front of you, which are the dogs playing, families and volleyball,” Hinsley said. “But this particular bench, when you go up there, you’re pretty much all alone and the view is phenomenal.
“You can see all the way to the racetrack and all the way to La Jolla,” she added. “So it’s really a wonderful place to go and just hang out and meditate.”
After making the $1,500 donation Hinsley settled on the inscription, which reads, “Love is infinite. Share it now. Sprinkle it vastly. Love to all. Chanel and Dino.”
“I decided rather than make it about somebody’s who’s passed away I would rather make it about something much more meaningful to me and that’s love,” she said. “The fact of the matter is, love is infinite whether someone’s here or not.
“Love goes on forever,” she added. “I’m hoping as people sit on the bench they’ll share it with the person they’re with. And when they go out in the world they’ll keep love going because after all, especially after this last month, I think it’s time to focus on some of the good stuff.”
Some of that “good stuff” includes her other passion — dogs.
“The fact that it is at Dog Beach was just thrilling to me,” she said. “I tried to find an organization that has to do with dogs. I came across Shelter to Soldier.”
The organization adopts canines from local shelters and trains them to become psychiatric service dogs for post-9/11 combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I just thought that was the perfect marriage,” Hinsley said. “If people have a few dollars they want to donate I hope that they’ll donate it to Shelter to Soldier through my Facebook page.”
To help spread the love Hinsley will hold an onsite bench-warming party at 4 p.m. July 2. She said she hopes representatives from Shelter to Soldier and the city, friends, family and residents will attend.
It will be followed by “a no-host toast to the love bench” at a nearby restaurant.
Hinsley told her adult children it would be great if they were engaged at the family love bench. She is also encouraging people to add photos with inspirational messages to her Facebook page, facebook.com/theLoveBenchDelMar.
“But most of all I’m hoping our bench will be there long after I’m gone and that my kids will keep it going,” she said. “And who knows, maybe their kids as well, because this bench’s sole purpose is to remind people to love each other.”