In this undated photo, a green-tinted gazing globe visually takes in all of last summer's garden in New Paltz, New York. These mirrored glass ornaments fell out of favor about 50 years ago, but are making a comeback, seen by some as attractive ornaments and by others as kitsch. (AP Photo/Lee Reich)

In this undated photo, a green-tinted gazing globe visually takes in all of last summer's garden in New Paltz, New York. These mirrored glass ornaments fell out of favor about 50 years ago, but are making a comeback, seen by some as attractive ornaments and by others as kitsch. (AP Photo/Lee Reich)

Is there a gazing globe in your garden’s future?

Did I see a glint of mocking laughter in a friend’s eyes when I mentioned the new addition to my garden, a gazing globe?

These mirrored glass ornaments were popular until about 50 years ago, when they fell from their pedestals, figuratively speaking. They’re now making a comeback, straddling the fence between attractive ornament and — to some people — kitsch.

Gazing globes date back to 13th century Italy, a country known for garden ornaments, and, more specifically, to Venice, a city known for glassworks.

They once were more than mere ornaments. They also were put in place to bring happiness, ward off evil spirits or attackers, and attract fairies. In Victorian times, a globe near a gate allowed you to look around the corner to see who or what was approaching from the other side of the fence or hedge.

The globes also found their way indoors. A butler could look around a corner to check if anyone was pocketing cutlery. A father could maintain a watchful eye on his daughter and her beau.

Look at a gazing globe and you’ll have a fish-eye view of everything except what’s directly behind the globe. As you move, the reflection also moves, except that you, the viewer, are always staring directly back at yourself. You are always the center of this perceptual universe — a metaphor, perhaps, for existence.

In my garden, however, the globe isn’t a protector or metaphor; it’s really just an ornament. It’s a shiny object off which dances light. In summer, it peeked out from among low shrubs and flowers. Over the past few months, the globe has increasingly come into focus, like a developing photographic image. It stands out most boldly in the garden on those winter days when it’s perched above and surrounded by billowing, white snow.

Today’s gazing globes have evolved from those orbs of past decades that often stood alone on pedestals in the center of lawns. In various sizes and tints, today’s globes nestle into flower beds, hang from branches or float in ponds. Rather than having a smooth, mirrored surface, today’s gazing globe might be a mosaic of silvered and colored glass.

Some gardeners make their own by gluing shards of mirrors or tile onto old bowling balls. To avoid the fragility of traditional gazing globes, some are now made from shiny, stainless steel.

I remember gazing globes from my youth, and nostalgia figures into my liking for them. I also remember being a little nervous around them, and I still like the glass ones for their fragility. They’re not that fragile, though; more than once, strong winds have knocked my globe off its pedestal and each time the globe, thankfully, made a soft enough landing to remain intact.

Most of all, I like gazing globes because they are fun, whether truly or mockingly so.

More in Life

This photo of Frenchy with a freshly killed black bear was taken on the Kenai Peninsula in the early 1900s. (Photo courtesy of the Viani Family Collection)
Unraveling the story of Frenchy, Part 1

The stories were full of high adventure — whaling, mining, polar bear hunting, extensive travel, and the accumulation of wealth

File
Seeing God’s hand in this grand and glorious creation

The same God of creation is the God that made me and you with the same thoughtfulness of design, purpose and intention

Chewy and sweet the macaroons are done in 30 minutes flat. (Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Sophisticated, simplified

When macarons are too complicated, make these delicious, simple macaroons

Michael S. Lockett / capital city weekly
Gigi Monroe welcomes guests to Glitz at Centennial Hall, a major annual drag event celebrated every Pride Month, on June 18.
Packed houses, back to back: GLITZ a roaring success

Sold-out sets and heavy-hitting headliners

Michael Armstrong / Homer News 
Music lovers dance to Nervis Rex at the KBBI Concert on the Lawn on July 28, 2012, at Karen Hornaday Park in Homer.
Concert on the Lawn returns

COTL line up includes The English Bay Band, a group that played in 1980

Marcia and Mary Alice Grainge pose in 1980 with a pair of caribou antlers they found in 1972. The sisters dug the antlers from deep snow and detached them from a dead caribou. (Photo provided by Marcia Grainge King)
Fortune and misfortune on the Kenai — Part 2

In Kasilof, and on Kachemak Bay, in Seldovia and later in Unga, Petersen worked various jobs before being appointed deputy marshal in 1934

“Glimmer of Hope: How Tragedy Sparked a Movement” was published in 2018 by Razorbill and Dutton, imprints of Penguin Random House LLC. (Image via amazon.com)
Off the Shelf: The power of personal voice

“A Glimmer of Hope: How Tragedy Sparked a Movement” provides first-person accounts of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida

Most Read