When I was but a green lad who had just purchased his first home, I went to replace the water heater only to find my 60-year-old galvanized plumbing was in such poor condition that it all needed to be replaced. Because I had not budgeted for a whole-house plumbing job (that eventually turned into minor renovations of the bathroom and kitchen, out of necessity), I wound up spending a little over a month without plumbing in my home (this is something that only young single people can do, I think, and probably easier for boys than girls) until I could scratch together a budget and a plan. The point is, sometimes you start to do one thing, and your result ends up being completely unexpected. This isn’t always bad.
When I replaced the confinement fence posts and built my vertical garden, I knew that I would have a ‘railing’ of acceptable height and a place to plant flowers and someday, vegetables. I had not considered the reflective nature of the galvanized metal I used, though. During the day, in this cloudy and moist spring, the reflected light lifts some of the gloom that settles on the patio in the shady hours; and even better, when the fire is going the firelight almost becomes an enveloping glow that adds to the warmth of the fire itself.
I think it is in humanity’s most primitive nature to perceive threat in darkness. While a mature forest has a calming appearance in daylight, at night it can seem a little ominous, even eerie when the owls call or you hear a twig snapping in the silence. I know that even though I have assured my daughter that I have thoroughly de-monstered the house and property, I have no trouble imagining a 1970’s style bigfoot peering out of the trees at me, plotting to steal my laundry or whatever. Somehow, the small amount of enclosure the planters offer enhance a feeling of security, a remove from primordial threat. Plus, they make it like an outdoor room like I have seen on TV.
The forest seems more distant as well: as the planters are near and vivid to our patio chairs, forced diminished perspective adds a depth and breadth to the clearing. This effect is enhanced to an even greater degree as the blue hour descends, making the greens and neutrals of the forest blend together into a two-dimensional backdrop, very similar to the photo mural my wife had in her bedroom as a teenager. You had one too, I know it, or you knew someone who did.
A Japanese teahouse will have a Nijiriguchi, or ‘crawling-in entrance,’ a low opening that
requires all who enter to do so at the same humbling level. As I have yet to add gates or any sort of easy access to the fence, the openings beneath the planters serve as defacto Nijiriguchi, although I sort of roll onto the patio, Starsky and Hutch style, while my wife still goes around…or just stays on the patio. She’s real smart that way. Nijiriguchi are frequently situated to frame a particularly appealing landscape feature to be viewed as one sits upon tatami taking tea, and as we sit on our low chairs we can see various parts of the clearing framed between the posts in the space beneath the containers. It is all a part of the Cabernichiro, or Evening Wine and Baseball Ritual.