I first saw it in the English countryside about twenty years ago. It was summer and the wheat fields of Hopton were splashed red with scarlet poppies, much like a Monet watercolour. With thatched cottages and windmills in the vicinity, it was picture postcard perfect.
My aunt’s English cottage garden was brimming over with rudbeckias, roses, hollyhocks, fuchsias, lupins, aquilegias and pansies. In the midst of all the flowers was the birdbath. I fell in love with it. I liked everything about it; from the frog sitting on its pedestal to the rough-hewn, stone–like finish.
I wanted to get one for the garden too, so I searched high and low for it. But it was a futile exercise. I came across one in Perth about ten years later, but it was not for sale.
The birdbath was proving to be elusive so I resolved to make one instead. A good friend who was taking pottery lessons let me have a lump of clay. I toiled over the clay until I was completely satisfied that my handiwork was as close to the original as I could get.
Then disaster struck. My ‘masterpiece’ exploded in the kiln – and I was shattered. I learnt later that I should have used the coil method instead. I know there’s no use crying over spilt milk but I would have loved to bawl my eyes out.
And then out of the blue, my aunt declared that she was going to move back to the land of her birth. “I’m taking most of my things with me,” she said. “And the birdbath?” I asked, holding my breath. “That too, if you like. Would you like to have it?” my aunt asked. Would I? I would have shouted with glee if I wasn’t afraid of shattering the peace of bucolic Hopton. I was so happy I must have smiled in my sleep as well.
Sometime late last year, the birdbath came home. Now, whenever I am in the garden, I read what is etched on the birdbath – words that I had read and committed to memory some twenty years ago:
The warmth of the sun for pardon
The song of the birds for mirth
One’s closest to God’s heart in a garden
Than anyplace else on earth!