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Sunday, September 20, 2009

No End To Learning

The Star
Monday August 27, 2007

No End To Learning

For one retiree, the pursuit of perfection brings much joy.

WE ARE retirees, my wife and I.
Most mornings we sit on the patio and sip steaming black coffee while taking in the splendour of the garden with its profusion of colours and verdant foliage. We love to feel the caress of the gentle breeze on our faces and listen to the cooing of the spotted doves.

The patio with a water feature

One day, a dove floated down on lazy wings and came to rest on a tree branch, right next to two others of its kind. The two doves were unruffled by this sudden intrusion as they are man-made doves made from white cement and malleable wires.

'Doves' and 'squirrels' on a man-made treeAdd caption

For in this garden, nature and art mingle and blend with each other; the organic and inorganic co-exist in harmony.

The front garden

I vividly recall the day I made my first model of a crane. I pulled out a tool box from underneath a stack of old newspapers and brushed away the wisp of cobwebs and thin layer of dust off its cover. I then rummaged through the paraphernalia of broken doorknobs, unused sockets, chipped screwdrivers and rusty nails until I finally managed to fish out a wire cutter and a pair of pliers which I needed for my craft.
I unhooked a coil of wire from the wall, and gave it a hefty bang as I tried to dislodge the long abandoned nest of a mud-dumper. The wire was stretched out on the floor of the living room and cut into four equal lengths. The wires were then bent into the shape of a crane and secured tightly at the proper places with thin wires.
After an hour, with my fingers all sore and etched with fine red lines because of the bending and twisting of wires, I finally completed the framework of a crane. I placed it on the table and stepped back to survey the “masterpiece” with a sense of satisfaction. It was the perfect shape and size.
Then I carefully filled in the framework with white cement. As I progressively filled it in, the crane too, began to grow fatter. Using a discarded plastic knife, I sculpted the wings and tails. Finally, the crane was completed.
An obese and overweight crane balancing precariously on one leg glared back at me.
Unperturbed, I had it carried and placed amidst a clump of blooming heliconias. So it stood, half obscured by the thick and verdant foliage, its defects not clearly visible.
Having learnt from my initial mistakes, the framework for my next project – a model of a snipe – was much smaller and slimmer. I also stuffed old newspapers into the framework to lighten its body.

I recalled my art lecturer at Universiti Sains Malaysia telling us that a piece of sculpture should be viewed from all angles. With the aid of a dumb-waiter, I was able to do this.

At last, I managed to create a snipe of the right shape and size. It is now a familiar feature on the front patio

'Flamingos' amongst the heliconias

Our garden is now dotted with models of animals. An eagle is perched high on the branch of a man-made tree, keeping a wary eye on the main gate. Below the tree, amongst a clump of heliconias, two flamingos forage for food while snipes peep from a tangled mass of green vegetation. Squirrels sit squatly on the trunk of another tree. A white mousedeer stands atop a tree stump while its companion grazes, unperturbed, among the cosmos and periwinkles.
The weather-beaten crane
The crane is now weather-beaten and moss-covered. However, it still stands steadily, even majestically, on its one leg. It looks disdainfully at two new arrivals below, as if to say,"Look! I was here long before you."

Some of the animals have found their way into other gardens. They are all modest gifts from a retiree, gifts which I hope will bring the recipients much joy and help brighten their days.
Some friends and relatives have approached me for my advice, and they too have succeeded in making models of birds. Others have gone home with obese or misshapen versions. Be they perfect or not, I have always encouraged my friends to proudly display their works in their gardens.
As I found out for myself, the pursuit of perfection, and not necessarily perfection itself, can be a lasting source of joy.

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