Jade Tigers, Cement Poodles

Several years ago, when we lived in South Dakota, Fuzzy and I spent a weekend hanging out in Minneapolis. We saw an ice show, ate sushi at a place called Origami, and hung out with a friend at the only branch of our favorite restaurant that exists (as far as I know) east of the Rockies. Or even east of the Sierras, for that matter.

On a sunny summer Sunday afternoon, we drove through Minneapolis, and, looking for a cafe, stumbled upon an art musem instead. I don’t remember which museum, only that there was a jazz band playing in a round room, and there was an exhibit of jade pieces. Fuzzy was enthralled by a three dimensional mural (there’s a name for this but it eludes me, just now) that included tigers, miniaturized but poised to defend or attack, depending on the viewer’s perspective. The sculpture that I was most drawn to was a jade representation of the Virgin Mary, with a translucent jade veil. At least, I think it was Mary, it’s quite possible I’m remembering it wrong. All I am certain of is that I was transfixed, and stared at it for what felt like hours, because it just touched me, in that inexplicable way that art has, of making itself felt.

Counterpoint to the beauty and serenity of those jade pieces: the vast majority of my neighbors sport cement statuary in their front yards. Some of the pieces are subtle: a rabbit tucked in the flower garden, some nearly-generic saint tucked in a niche, a bird bath, a fountain. These, I find whimisical. Some of my neighbors, however, fail to realize that while our houses are “Texas sized,” with the smallest being 1550 square feet (for sale on the end of my street, actually, 3/2.5 $116k), they are, by and large (mostly large), ordinary houses, not mansions, and so, when I notice the folks with lions flanking their walkways, I have to laugh. Especially since said stone beasties are generally out of proportion to the house they’re guarding – after all, no one here lives in the New York Public Library.

And then there are the folks with the cement poodle. I can’d decide if this is merely whimsical (like the rabbits and birdbaths) or absurd, because it’s life-sized, and sits (literally) on their lawn, facing out onto the corner. Mostly, I guess, I’m amused by my dog’s reaction to it. Zorro doesn’t ever notice it, but Cleo thinks it’s there to taunt her, and whenever our walks take us past this house, she goes into Alert mode, her tail curling over her back, her cheeks puffing out, a low growl simmering in her throat.

“Cleo,” I tell her. “It’s just a statue.”

But she never believes me.