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Necessity is the mother of, um, something. April 22, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Faithful readers may recall that our friend Ben had a rather bad day a couple of weeks ago, when I’d finally decided the weather was settled enough to set out the lawn ornaments, and a high wind promptly came up and smashed the silver gazing ball in the front island bed. Now, this bed is what passersby see as they drive past my home, Hawk’s Haven, and it’s definitely at its peak in spring when it’s literally awash with color from Siberian squill, chionodoxa, crocus, daffodils, ranunculus, trout lilies, bloodroot, toothwort, and Dutchman’s breeches.

So of course our friend Ben was mortified to see the beautiful seagreen column on which the gazing ball formerly resided sticking up out of the island bed like a latter-day Greek ruin. (Silence Dogood had quite a bit to say to our friend Ben on the subject as well, yet again belying her name.) As a result, last weekend saw our friend Ben trundling off to the local garden center to buy a replacement gazing ball.

Sticker shock! Even the plainest of gazing balls cost a mind-numbing sixty dollars. After an unfortunate encounter with my income taxes on April 15th, our friend Ben was not inclined to cough up $60 for lawn art, which after all is a discretionary item. (I suspect the IRS would take a somewhat dim view if I attempted to write it off as either a dependent or a business expense.) But returning empty-handed meant still looking at the topless column every time I looked out the window or went into the front yard, and it also meant a rather biting ongoing series of one-liners from Silence. Frankly, our friend Ben could see her point.

Finally, after several days of mental paralysis, our friend Ben had what a friend’s mother immortally called a rush of brains to the head. Our friend Ben’s sister, who fortunately not only lives far away but is even more of a Luddite than I am, never even going near a computer, is a big fan of local potters in her hometown in Alabama. Unfortunately, she attempts to show her support of these struggling artists by bestowing the fruits of their labors upon our friend Ben on every possible occasion.

Now, our friend Ben loves handmade ceramics. I attend every pottery show in my area, and can’t seem to stay out of crafts shops, whether they’re local or, like the Allenstand Craft Shop at the Appalachian Folk Art Museum in Asheville, North Carolina, are an integral part of a vacation elsewhere. From historic Pennsylvania redware to exquisite Pueblo and Mata Ortiz pottery, our friend Ben enthusiastically loves and purchases these marvelous pieces. In fact, no trip to visit friends is complete without a visit to a local craft gallery (or many, in the case of Asheville and Charlottesville, Virginia).

But my sister’s taste is not mine. Our friend Ben is partial to pieces with an evident usefulness: pitchers, vases, bowls, platters, even (and especially) humble mugs. My soap dishes and toothbrush holders are handmade; so are my birdbaths and cat and dog bowls. My sister, by contrast, loves large, imposing, and totally useless ceramics, which our friend Ben has attempted to integrate into the small cottage venue of Hawk’s Haven with dubious success.

So it was with real joy that our friend Ben recalled a huge, melon-shaped turquoise ceramic piece that had been hiding since its arrival in a dark recess in the pantry. Said piece is now proudly centered on the seagreen column, adding a beautifully contrasting color and the appropriate shape, if not the reflective quality that gave gazing balls their name. Thank you, Elizabeth! Pondering this further, it dawned on our friend Ben that we also have a gorgeous, palest primrose yellow pumpkin that formed an integral part of last fall’s harvest display and is still entirely intact in the mudroom. (Our friend Ben had never seen a pumpkin of that color, and of course could not bear to compost it or feed it to the chickens while it was still intact.) It, too, would have been exquisite on the seagreen column.

Those of you who have read my post “The gazing ball thief” will know that I have more than a passing interest in gazing balls. If you happen to have an unused silver gazing ball lurking somewhere in storage on your property, please think of our friend Ben and that seagreen column. But until someone kindly bestows a gazing ball on us, the turquoise ceramic will fill a void.        



1. Cinj - April 23, 2008

Well, it’s not unused but I sort of have one. It has a frog with a broken foot holding it. I think your melon sounds like a lovely piece (not that I would buy one, but it’s a great way to save money).

Poor frog!!! Hopefully the ceramic piece will fare better than my unfortunate gazing ball!

2. linda - April 23, 2008

I love gazing balls – the way they reflect the entire garden is just stunning, kind of like the Bean at Millenium Park in Chicago.

The fate of yours is exactly why I’ve never succumbed to their wiley charms. I’m glad you found a temporary stand-in.

Thanks, Linda! I suggest that you look for a stainless steel gazing ball. I have one tucked in a bed in the backyard and can even leave it out in winter. Unlike the beautiful but fragile blown-glass balls, the stainless ones are bulletproof!

3. Amy - April 23, 2008

Ho ho ho! I’m still laughing at the “rush of brains to the head”!

Yes, that one’s a classic! As if it weren’t enough of a scream, her father used to say “anything in a storm”!

4. Frances - April 23, 2008

Way to be resourceful, the melon sounds lovely, but so did the glass ball. Maybe a changing display of many of the sister gift ceramic pieces would give the passersby something to chat about with weekly changes?

Ha!!! But, well, then *we’d* have to look at them. Some are actually lovely, but there are others. Lots of others…

5. kate - April 25, 2008

The bowl is probably pleased to have been liberated and placed in the sunshine. Not only are you resourceful, but you are also a creative problem solver.

Thanks, Kate! I actually think it’s pleased as well. I think if and when I do get a replacement gazing ball I’ll tuck the turquoise melon vase in one of the borders at ground level, where it can enjoy and enliven the garden at the same time!

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