The lovely Daylily at My Depression Chronicles asked about the meaning behind my garden gnomes. My apologies to Daylily and any others who find the gnomes creepy – it is my hope that you’ll anthropomorphize and love them as much as I.
Here is the story:
My dad Simon obsesses over things – he gets an idea in his mind and can’t move on until that idea is fulfilled. Over the years, he’s obsessed over cooking, kayaking, mountain biking, fishing, toy trains (Christmas-related), tattoos, boating, healthy eating, piano lessons, weight-lifting, singing lessons, spinning (exercise-related), electronics, photography, hiking, bird watching, golf…and garden gnomes.
One fateful date in 2004 he brought home a gnome and placed it in our garden. My brother Claudius and I thought it looked absurd, added a leprechaun pencil topper we found laying around, and took this picture -
We christened him David (after David the Gnome)…and then stole him.
The little leprechaun we named Hershel and refer to him as a gnome.
Then we acquired Joshua, Bernard, and Abe -
Photographing gnomes has become central to my personality. For some people it’s my defining characteristic. I’ve boiled the reasons for gnoming to the following six:
First, the gnomes are a major coping strategy for the anxiety. They allow me to define myself as the weird gnome girl before others have a chance to assign a label. Plus, gnome photography is a great way to look busy at a social gathering without interacting with people and/or provides a great conversation starter. These gnomes have prevented many panic attacks.
Second, gnome photography is a great litmus test. I don’t bother with people who can’t find the humor in this hobby. Strangers will often stare, smile, and/or laugh when they notice. Once, in Philadelphia, a woman interrupted herself on the phone to say “There is a girl taking a picture of a gnome in front of City Hall!” I brightened her day. Sometimes I wonder how many people went home and said, “I saw the weirdest thing today…”
Third, they give me a purpose in my downtime, as any hobby should.
Fourth, they fulfill a strange socialization quotient without necessarily socializing. I try to avoid being the center of attention at all costs, so gnome photography might seem counterintuitive, as it draws attention; however, it draws attention to the gnomes, not to me, and it is funny attention. I can go out, take some photographs, share a nod with a few strangers, and feel fulfilled.
Fifth, I avoid being in photos as much as possible so the gnomes act as my stand-in.
Sixth and most importantly, it’s funny. Above anything else I want things to be funny.