As soon as warm weather arrives, people everywhere begin adorning their yards with a proliferation of plastic junk purchased at dollar stores and yard sales a wide variety of yard art. Let me state right now that I believe everyone should be free to do whatever they want on their own property. Plastic deer, pink flamingos, giant geese with costumes that match the changing seasons – whatever. I myself would think twice before affixing giant multi-colored butterflies in a dramatic spiral across the entire front of my home, but if that sort of thing flies your kite, have fun with it. It’s your home, so go ahead and knock yourself out. You might not like my wind chimes and kitschy porch décor, not to mention the Christmas lights that are left up until the snow melts, but what can you do? That’s right, nothing.
I must confess, however, that there is one type of yard ornament that I would love to see disappear from yards across America. I am referring to the “gazing ball.” (I dislike them so much, that I am loathe to include a photo of one on this page. If you want to see one, click here.)
I concede that the original gazing balls were things of beauty. According to Wikipedia (and we all know that Wikipedia is an infallible resource on all things from gazing balls to the gross domestic product of Guatemala), they were first made of hand blown glass in the 13th century by Italian craftsman. Later they enjoyed renewed popularity in English gardens during the Victorian age. I’m certain they were lovely to behold.
I can imagine enjoying them in those settings. As works of art nestled in the lush landscapes of well tended gardens, they would have added a sparkling compliment to their beautiful surroundings. In fact, some years ago I enjoyed a visit to Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh where artistic works of hand blown glass were interspersed throughout the gardens. They were not globes, but the effect was similar; ornamental glass and natural foliage played off each other in a perfect partnership of form and beauty.
(Picture: Glass Artwork at Phipps Conservatory, August 2010)
The gazing balls typically seen in your average suburban neighborhood don’t have this same appeal. Instead, they look a garish trophy given for first place in an amateur ball room dancing competition. Many are not even made of glass anymore. Don’t expect to find a “handmade in Italy” tag anywhere on them either. Instead, they are mass produced from stainless steel and covered with a shiny coat of metallic paint. And when did you last observe anyone gazing into one? Never. In fact, it is a physical impossibility to do so for much of the summer because the sun glares off them with a blinding intensity. This leads me to my main complaint.
On a bright day, the sun bounces off them and refracts directly into my eyes, causing temporary blindness as I attempt to navigate my vehicle down the street. While I staunchly defend your American right to be as tacky as you want, I have to draw the line when your choice of home décor causes me to suffer optical damage. If the dazzling solar rays bounce off your gazing ball, searing my retinas and causing me to accidentally drive over the curb and decimate your prize winning rose bushes, you should know that you have only your own self to blame.
I realize I’m not the lawn décor police. I don’t want to be. Spinning pinwheels, garden gnomes, stepping stones with bad poems etched in them – I’m cool with all of it. Live and let live, I say. But if your choice of yard ornament has the potential to activate a migraine headache due to its glaring intensity, I’m just putting it out there that you should consider getting rid of it.
You might find these words derisive, pompous, or simply ridiculous. I’m saying them anyway, for while I recognize that I might be offending the “gazing ball aficionados” in my reading audience, there comes a time when one must take a stand and speak plainly. In the end there are two kinds of people in the world: those who think a basketball spray painted bright blue and displayed on a column of molded plastic is attractive, and those who recognize the gazing ball as the aesthetic horror of the suburban lawn. I’m not saying you have to agree with me.
I’m just saying you’re wrong if you don’t.
Kermit the Frog became a victim of Gazing Ball Eye Glare and had to opt out of a lucrative movie deal in the summer of 2012 while he recuperated. Thankfully, his vision has been fully restored.