It’s Fall here in the home town of The Department of Misinformation, Disinformation and Possibly, Sock Puppetry. Time to cut the lawn one more time, drain the swamp, clean out the garden and flower beds, replace the cadmium rods in the reactor, rake the leaves, reorganize the storage shed, my sock drawer and the garage, put away the outdoor furniture and do twenty other things I’ve probably forgotten.
Before I get started though, I know that you’re wondering about the devices depicted in the Feature Image, so I’ll tell you what they AREN’T. They’re not a pair of fraternal twin companion robots. They’re also NOT the components of some kind of futuristic, regenerative, zero-emission composting toilet. Come to think of it, that would be a pretty fair dinkum guess though.
Here’s what a composting toilet looks like, just to put your mind at ease.
At first I thought maybe this thing was actually a safe disguised as a composting toilet, on account of that three-spoked handle. I couldn’t figure out what that was for. The airlock maybe? The periscope? Turns out other people had the same issue.
“Ich habe letzte Woche meine alte Toilette entfernt und eine, wie ich dachte, Komposttoilette installiert. Jetzt kann ich damit kein Geschäft machen, weil ich nicht weiß, wozu das dreispeichige Rad gut ist. Ich dachte, es sei vielleicht ein als Toilette getarnter Safe. Mein Gott!”
Anyway, all this talk about composting got me back on track re: Fall Cleanup. I just remembered one of the twenty other things I was supposed to do this Fall and that was to remind you, the alert reader, to check in on your Garden Hermit, if you happen to have one. This is kind of a long shot on my part as the practice of employing a Garden Hermit pretty much died out around 1800. These days, good help is hard to find. But you never know.
For about 300 years, various rich landowners in parts of Britain, Scotland, Las Vegas and Ireland took pride in maintaining perfectly manicured estates complete with rustic grottos, lakes and quaint hermitages. Some of the quaint hermitages also sported quaint hermits who were expected to entertain visitors.
I’m quoting here from a 2014 article, penned by Allison Meier, entitled: “Before the Garden Gnome, the Ornamental Hermit: A Real Person Paid to Dress like a Druid”:
“It might seem like a whimsical garden feature, but in fact it was all about that most celebrated of Georgian England emotions: melancholy. Introspection and a somberness of spirit were prized among the elite, and the roles they asked their hermits to play embodied this.“
Their role was basically to hang around the garden wearing something resembling a dunce cap or maybe a crown of oak leaves, introspect, be ready to converse with/counsel curious visitors and possibly even pour them a drink: sort of a cross between Sigmund Freud, Gandalf and Lloyd, that eerie bartender in The Shining.
A 1784 guide to an estate in Shropshire, England, belonging to Sir Richard Hill, featured this descriptive passage of its resident hermit, Norris:
“You tug on a bell pull, and gain admittance to the hermitage. Norris is generally in a sitting posture, with a table before him, on which is an owl pellet, the emblem of wisdom and recycling, a skull, the emblem of mortality, an hour-glass, the emblem of Days of Our Lives, a popular soap opera which is still going strong since its debut in 1329, a book, emblem of erudition and its patron saintess: Kamala Harris and finally, a pair of spectacles, the emblem of myopia or maybe hyperopia.”
Note: I might have made up virtually all of the foregoing.
And here I’m ostensibly quoting from an actual help wanted ad circa 1710:
“Hermit Wanted: Seven year engagement. 100 pounds/year. Must enjoy solitude, pill bugs,rockeries, grottos, fungi, caves, etc. Astrological sign: Cancer. Basic elements of personal hygiene including bathing, haircuts, trimming of eyebrows, clipping of fingernails and toenails are frowned upon but tolerated. Shoes optional. Experience in counseling techniques such as Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP), Transactional Analysis (TA) and Basically Shooting The Shit (BSTS) would be an asset. The successful applicant will be melancholy and yet, oddly chatty. Must love dogs. Must be able to recite poetry and pour wine without spilling it. Must supply pronouns, skull, owl pellet and Druid costume. “
If you want to know more on this esoteric topic, a chap by the name of Gordon Campbell has written a book on Garden Hermits. Who knew?
Coincidentally, in the 1700’s when garden hermits were on the decline, kitschy ornamental garden gnome statues started to become popular. My guess is that it got harder and harder to find people willing to live in a grotto for years on end without trimming their eyebrows, so garden hermits were gradually replaced by statues. Thankfully for Canadians, there’s a store located somewhere in B.C. called The Gnome Shop, devoted solely to gnome statuary.
You have to see it for yourself: gnomes toting machine guns, Bigfoot carrying several gnomes, a burly gnome carrying an adolescent Sasquatch, a gnome obstetrician delivering a baby Sasquatch, gnomes teaching Calculus, gnomes being devoured by dachshunds, cats, dinosaurs, dragons and snakes, Fauci gnomes, gnomes wearing bikinis and a gnome rocking a Borat-style thong…
And you thought I was pulling your leg.
I would never do that.