The most recent issue of Notes From Toad Hall and Critique should be in the mail to people on our mailing list (getting on is no more than a click away)
On the last page I said I would post some photos Anita and I have taken of lawn ornaments around Minnesota this fall and winter. But I’m not sure how to post them here along with my rambling comments, so if you care to see more you’ll need to go to Facebook.
Here’s one pic along with my remarks from the last page of Notes:
Final Notes (Holiday Issue 2009)
If you exit a city or town anywhere in Minnesota and drive through the countryside on a slow road in minutes you’ll spot cement cows lounging in a front yard, or deer poised watching the field, or black silhouettes of bears climbing trees. I guess I’ve seen some in town, too. I ridicule lawn ornaments: What? You need to be reminded of what lives in your back yard with tasteless inferior imitations? The same with Christmas decorations. That aesthetic violation is everywhere. Blow up Santas and elves, garish flashing, pulsing lights. While I’m in full-lung cry, I ignore the small exceptions I make for myself: Margie, why the white terns in your garden? Where’s the shore, anyway? And what of that concrete toad sitting among your hostas?
While reading The Architecture of Happiness (see Gift List) I recomposed myself in a way I hope leads to more generous acceptance of rampant yard ornamentation.
Botton thoughtfully observes: “…at its most genuine, the architectural impulse seems connected to a longing for communication and commemoration, a longing to declare ourselves to the world through a register other than words, through the language of objects, colours and bricks: an ambition to let others know who we are – and, in the process, to remind ourselves.” “Breadth of choice leaves us free to determine that particular works of architecture are more or less adequate responses to our genuine psychological needs. We can accept the legitimacy of the rustic style, even if we question the way [tenants of a certain complex] attempted to inject it into their homes. We can condemn the gnomes while respecting the longings which inspired them.”
Applied more broadly, don’t these embellishments tell us that people want to remember that deer are graceful and cows nourish, that they’d like to believe and celebrate a story with a happy ending?
I think I know what’s wanted – the real story with true connections. So this year I’m gonna let my neighbors be and not say a word against their cows or lights. So Peace, Come Emmanuel, Glory and all that beautiful lasting stuff. You’re welcome.