Pavilion Topper

As I was building the pavilion for my garden, I didn’t spend much effort thinking about the roof apex. Just putting the structure together took enough of my concentration and effort. But after I was done, the roof looked rather plain and uninteresting. It looked unfinished. It definitely needed a topper, but I didn’t know what. I thought maybe there was some sort of traditional item or design, or even some sort of general pattern for the topper. So I examined a lot of photos of Chinese garden pavilions. The rooflines, as you might imagine, looked “Asian” (style varied with the region in China), but there was no obvious pattern for a roof finial. I was free. I was not bound by design tradition. I could put whatever I wanted up there. But what did I want?

I wanted something that would complement the roofline, something significant, but not so flashy that it would draw your eye from the rest of the structure or from the garden. I looked through catalogues of roof finials but nothing seemed quite right. So I went back to looking and squinting at my unadorned roof, trying to get an idea. Finally I decided that a sphere eight to ten inches across would do everything I want. It would be the period to the roof statement. It would be definite, but subtle and not an exclamation point.

Do you know how hard it is to find an all-weather sphere eight to ten inches in diameter? Name a store and I bet you it doesn’t sell them. Not even the on-line finial websites I looked at had them. I started thinking about how to make one.

One day, while I was in the process of mulling over how to make an all-weather sphere, my wife and I toured a private garden. It was dense with foliage that reached out for you and abstract sculptures that seemed to smile. It also had bantam chickens wandering around, each with a unique plumage pattern as though they were part of the garden design. The garden was intriguing. But most intriguing to me was the profusion of bowling balls lying among the bushes and tall grass like eggs of some science fiction creature. My “Aha!” light bulb went on. After a friendly visit with the garden owner, my wife and I left for home, proud new owners of an old bowling ball.

And that bowling ball now adorns the top of my pavilion, a period, not an exclamation point.

In the Field

Stories about people studying wild animals.

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