Sculpture Stories: The Human Need for Yard Art
Garden Art, Plastic Animals and the Meaning of Life
One of my greatest pleasures in life is taking the time to relax and ponder the most perplexing issues of our time. I find it exhilarating thinking about questions like where the universe ends, why are we here and what will the human race be like when comet Hale-Bopp returns in 4,000 years?
And, why do people have plastic-molded animals in their front yards?
The last question has puzzled me for years, and I may have given it more thought than the previous three questions with little result to show for my deliberation. My family never purchased a plastic or cement creature to grace either our front or back yards. My recent purchase of a bird bath has been, to date, the closest thing my family has ever come to owning an animal yard ornament, however the animals that alight on it have real feathers - not hard, cold, molded ones. I’m not against the plastic animals. I just don’t understand them.
My dog, Razz, apparently doesn’t understand them either. As a puppy, he and I used to walk voraciously in the small town where I worked. One spring afternoon, we came upon a family of plastic geese in a perpetual excursion across a neighbor’s yard. I wasn’t even aware of the fowl family until Razz began barking wildy at the still birds. I eased on the leash to let him get closer to the flightless geese. His barking ceased as he realized there was something horribly wrong with the young family. I could sense his dog brain trying hopelessly to decipher the conundrum. Here were birds of the kind that usually took flight when he approached, and yet these seemed unmoved - literally. Soon, after a good sniffing, he left the family behind, although I don’t believe the problem was ever satisfactorily solved in his mind.
The issue arose again a few years later when my husband took Razz for another walk in the suburbs of Kansas City. They rounded a corner and ran smack-dab into a cement figurine of Saint Francis of Assisi - a saint well-known for his love of animals. Again, my dog barked at the strange, pale, small man who held his arms open to welcome all of God’s creatures. My husband said Razz began to growl at the small statue, and very warily - crouching low for fast escape if necessary - Razz moved in for a smell of the man. After a quick sniff, he continued by, growling as he passed. The next time Razz came upon the statue, the only notice he gave his patron saint was a very wet, doggy salute. Perhaps he had settled the issue of yard art in his mind at last, deciding such art was to be used for the same purpose as fire hydrants.
Although Razz’s mind may be settled on the point, mine still turns in wonder. Why do people have plastic animals in their yards?
Is it because the animals somehow bring the feeling of nature close to home? Or are passers-by supposed to be taken off guard for a moment, declaring to those with them, “Why look! There are some deer in that yard!” If that is the case, then someone needs to talk to the owners of the deer I saw at Christmas. They were a lovely pair (the deer, not the owners) standing alert in the front yard. And to celebrate the season, the deer had big, red Christmas bows tied around their necks. To date I have seen several wild, live deer. None, to my recollection, have ever had bows tied around their necks, regardless of the season.
But the whole issue took a new turn for me recently when I saw another deer keeping watch in a suburban lawn. This one had a sack of fertilizer across its back. I don’t know how that family rated, but their plastic deer was apparently tamer or of better stock than others’ deer because they had gotten their animal to do yard work for them.
Metal Garden Art
I have toyed with the idea of purchasing a couple of deer. Perhaps I have been missing out on something by not having plastic animals cavorting in my front yard. I even priced a small, plastic squirrel the other day, but quickly put it back. We have real squirrels in our yard. The true excitement would be found in something more exotic - like deer - or maybe a moose.
In truth, I shouldn’t throw stones at the plastic yard animals. If the walls of my house were ripped away and our bedroom revealed, my collection of stuffed animals could easily be seen. A number of stuffed animals sit in a hidden corner of our room, from a very large bear named Genius to a very old mouse named - appropriately by myself at three years of age - Mousey.
Therefore, I have decided people purchase these inanimate creatures for one of two reasons. Either the owners believe the creatures represent a type of suburban art, or the child in us still thrills at seeing animals in any form. Some people display their stuffed animals inside and others outside. I just happen to prefer my animals indoors. After all, stuffed animals deteriorate in the weather.
Whichever way it is, I hope those who enjoy their yard art will continue to display them. A little wonderment keeps the child in us alive.
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