I have not enthused about my labyrinth in a while, so let’s do that.
Last night we built a fire and had a quiet evening outside. It’s getting chilly now, so the fire was most welcome.
I decided to get photos of some of the points of interest, so take a walk with me. First up, the southpoint: the element for south is fire, so we have a sculpture representing the sun, by Richard Hill.
Isn’t this area lovely?
It’s the men’s loo.
Somehow I didn’t get a photo of Apollo. Hope he’s okay with that; you know how touchy he can get. I’ll have to get one tonight.
… with the Green Man…
… and the bench, this time with angel and windchimes.
The westpoint: water is the element of the west. (Bowl by Montgomery artist Brooks Barrow.)
The northwest corner, with the Dancing Faun standing in for Dionysus. He was looking particularly fine last night.
The northpoint: earth is the element of the north. Here we’re looking at the earthwork from the bottom of the bank, a small grotto lined with stone and now covered with peacock moss.
And from the labyrinth, a standing stone.
A wide shot.
Another wide shot.
The new fence was installed in 2016, and it was only recently that I realized that someone — either the representative from the First Fence of Georgia who drew the plans, or the young man installing the fence — had taken the trouble to center the fence on the two trees at the westpoint. A warm letter of appreciation is in order.
Eventually the fire, which was glorious all night, was down to embers. With only the standing stone still lit, it was a quiet ending to a quiet night.
Now its secrets will be revealed. This is a lighting fixture that I bought at Rare & Different, the fun store next to the CHRISTMAS BOUTIQUE, KENNETH, on rue De Buade. It’s full of these bizarre lamps, all different shapes and colors, and all inexplicably beautiful and fascinating, and all made from the vinyl pieces you see above. If you’re from the area they will build your selection for you while you wait or shop, but if you’re from away you have to take the pieces home and build it yourself.
Here’s how it works: when you’re home and ready to assemble your lamp you email the address on the business card, including the receipt number of your purchase. They then send you the link to two videos: the first one explains the vocabulary they’ll be using (“right/left-leaning,” “rosettes,” etc.) and the mechanical strategies of assembly; the second is specific to the model you picked out. Both are very well done, narrated by Marie-Josée (MJ) Bouchard in a careful yet firm manner.
The concept is enough to make a math major drool: each piece slides into another, like so:
As you can imagine, the lamp is built in layers. My model is the “Saucer,” which MJ pronounces charmingly as “sow-ser.” Here’s the first layer of five pieces:
And flipped, ready for Step 2:
Here we are after Step 2:
You can see how fascinating the concept is. Imagine a store full of these things, all sizes and shapes—your brain really cannot distinguish which pattern is which or which one is going to be the most fascinating when you get it home.
In the video, MJ is working with alternating colors on each step so that you can see what goes where. This does not help those of us assembling a pure white Saucer; at Step 6 I got lost every single time. Step 5 was made up of alternating left- and right-leaning pieces, and Step 6 involved adding two pieces to every left-leaning piece. After starting over for the fourth time, I had a scathingly brilliant idea: add a colored paperclip to the left-leaning pieces. That way, I could tell a) which were the left-leaning pieces without peering intently at the things; and b) which piece I started with as I worked my way around.
I still got lost a couple more times before I got it right. Part of the problem is that as you start closing the top, the tension between pieces becomes greater and unfinished rosettes will come undone. That presents difficulties in recognizing where the next piece goes: does it just hook up with its neighbor, or were there supposed to be two “petals” already there?
Finally, though, I triumphed: Step 6, and the ultra-difficult Step 7 to close the top and install the lighting fixture.
In its natural habitat:
And a video:
No, I’m not leaving it out in the weather (although the shop maintains that the lamps are good for outside). I will store it inside and take it out to install it over the worktable whenever we’re out there of an evening.
So: great lamp, interesting assembly, 10/10 would do it again.
Short prologue: I bought a set of cards with inspirational questions on them to use as writer’s prompts down at Backstreet Arts, and in a fit of masochism decided that if I weren’t actively working on anything while I was down there, then I was required to draw one randomly and answer it.
Ugh. This is the kind of gross self-affirmation any of which I do not need. But an oath is an oath, and I think I’d like to share my response.
Ha. I am perpetually self-indulgent. Every day I enjoy what I do—and I do what I enjoy. This idea of not enjoying life is completely alien to me.
This includes the things I have to do, duties and burdens—far be it from this atheist to claim biblical inspiration, but the verse, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” [Ecclesiastes 9:10] seems to have stuck with me from Sunday School. Why not commit to your tasks with joy and appreciation?
It’s certainly not the case that I am a Pollyanna about life—there is plenty in my life that frustrates me or makes me unhappy. But it has never made sense to me to regard all of life as roadblocks. For one thing, taking things “personally” is the quickest way to misery: if the universe is out to get you, how are you supposed to enjoy your existence in the face of that?
The northeast corner of the labyrinth has been neglected for years. Nominally a quiet sitting area, with a redwood glider nestled among ferns and lily-of-the-valley, it became an overgrown dead-end — lovely to look at, but useless as a meditative station. Also, the redwood slats were rotten.
So when my brother-in-law Daniel made us a lovely bench for Christmas, I knew it was time to rework that corner. I pulled out the glider and began yanking out the undergrowth, clearing a spot for the new bench. I cut a 3×5 foot piece of RAM board to give me a guide as to how much flagstone I needed, and to keep some of the undergrowth from growing back.
This was over a month ago, and that’s where the trouble started. For years I have been heading out to Mulch & More on Highway 34 for my flagstone needs, but this time I was told they had a new policy: whereas before they had an open pallet of flagstone standing on its end so you could riffle through like records, now they leave it lying flat and you have to buy what’s on top.
However, what was on top were small pieces of flagstone for which I had no use. I asked about the policy — they changed because they were getting stuck with “a lot of waste.” Hm, I thought to myself, and now you want me to buy your waste?
But I was determined to kill with kindness. I kept going out there twice a week, smiling and waving and cheerfully leaving when there was nothing I could give them money for because no one else had given them money for the stone I couldn’t use. Finally, this Monday, there was a piece of flagstone on top I could use. I bought it, pointedly telling the office staff that it was great I could finally give them money for one piece of flagstone. The young man who assisted me out in the yard confessed that he thought the policy was self-defeating, but what is one to do?
I posted about it on Facebook, and Craig recommended I try Vining Stone out in Sharpsburg. Yesterday I drove out there, and you will scarcely believe this, but even though they have basically the same policy, they’re not idiots about it. (Their words, actually.) I came home with plenty of stone to finish my project.
I had to take all of that out in order to till the soil and rake it flatter.
Still in rough shape.
For an Abortive Attempt, it will do. I’ll revisit it in the coming week. I can reshape some of the stones for a tighter fit, and I’d like to make the apron circular.
Remember how the water symbol endstone crumbled at my touch?
After a good solid rain, it completely disintegrated:
Oh well. Try again later.
This week’s project has been to reseed the labyrinth — FOR THE LAST TIME, I TELL YOU. As I’ve mentioned before, the soil in the labyrinth is topsoil — not garden soil — that I just shoveled on top of the paving stones. It’s only two inches deep; below that is red clay. It becomes impacted without my even walking the labyrinth every day, and on top of that there’s been too much shade for most grass to grow, even that which promises to be “deep shade.”
So after my back yard neighbor removed the large pecan tree that provided most of the shade, I decided I would give the thing one more try before settling for bare dirt and weeds.
My original plan was to do a small test area to see if my idea worked. I bought one bag each of soil conditioner and compost.
I mixed them. (Time will tell whether I will regret using the conditioner, which is basically fine wood chips. Bare feet may not be happy.)
I tilled the soil by hand with a garden weasel contraption, sprinkled the conditioning mixture on it, sprinkled seed on it, then re-weaseled it all.
Then I decided — probably hubristically — that I should just go ahead and do the whole labyrinth. What could go wrong? That meant multiple trips to The Home Depot for conditioner, compost, and seed, and not all at the same time.
Bit by bit, path by path, I got it done, until finally, this morning, I was finished.
The lovely water endstone that I finally got around to making on Monday?
Too much water? Not enough water? I need advice.
More disturbingly, my back yard neighbor took down the pecan tree. He had alerted us that he was going to do so, but it was still a surprise to realize on Tuesday that there was a crew on the other side of the fence — my new fence — removing the giant. I had left stuff out, so I quickly moved everything breakable away from the fence. Good thing, because Thursday morning there was a chunk of limb where the Dancing Faun sculpture stands.
It also left a huge mess of smaller limbs and sawdust everywhere. On Thursday afternoon, two of the workers rang my doorbell to offer to clean up the back yard; we went back to double-check for damage, but I told them I’d pick up the sticks and use them in the firepit. (I’m assuming they couldn’t vacuum the sawdust up.)
All of that is just niggly little stuff, of course. The sawdust will incorporate into the landscape, and that will be that.
What I’m having a very hard time with is the loss of the vast green-ness that was once part of the labyrinth’s “outer wall.”
I am also now missing a great deal of shade:
The good news is that I won’t have to put up with pecans all over the place any more — and maybe fewer squirrels digging holes? — and perhaps I will finally be able to get grass to grow.
I had a completely free day this Monday, and so I was able to get out into the labyrinth and get Things done.
I did a general cleanup of ivy, bamboo, and other growth.
I planted a couple of macho ferns on either side of the nook…
These are European macho ferns and should grow to about 5 feet tall, but without spreading aggressively as some cultivars do.
I planted some echinacea in the upper area…
And I finally got around to re-making the water endstone for the labyrinth…
(You can read about the original project and its purpose here.)
I had enough concrete left over to pour a little base next to one of the macho ferns to put a candle stand on. (For years I’ve just been jamming it into the ivy to make it stand.)
I had help, of course, from the Assistive Feline™.
This is her glamour shot. She sat there for about thirty minutes waiting for the chipmunk to make a move.
And I had time to write a letter.
A good day. Of course, yesterday my neighbor had the big pecan tree taken down, so I have a little clean-up to do today before I can move on to the next project: cables across the top of the fence, for art thingies.
When last we left our hero, I was working on leveling the granite circle in the center of the labyrinth. I was also excavating the drainage system beneath the bowl, and creating a seal between the bowl and the other components so that leakage of dirt into the bowl would not be as big a problem for the next ten years.
I leveled the quarters with paving bricks, and replaced the river stones in the drainage pipe.
I placed the bowl back in place and began fitting the rubber pipe insulation around the rim.
I tested for the gap. On the east side, the rubber gasket idea was perfect. On the west side, though, the gap was bigger. I considered leveling the bowl, but there’s a second, tiny drain hole on that side so I left the bowl tilted. I adjusted the gasket level instead.
Also, the L-brackets showed when the granite was reinstalled, so I cut those in half. I ended up cutting the long pieces in half as well, and using the built-in adhesive strip to hold it in place. (Hold that thought.)
Finally I was done.
Or was I?
As I walked away from it, I realized that rather than use the L-brackets and have a mishmash of unconnected pieces, I could just run a single piece of the long insulation all the way around. Hm. After the hurricane gets done, I’ll re-explore.