Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Ah, Turtle Boy, We Hardly Knew Ye

There was an interesting column on the Harriet Burnside Memorial Fountain, otherwise known as the Turtle Boy statue, in the Telegram over the weekend. You can read it here.

The fountain, which is pictured above, was donated to the City of Worcester by Harriet Burnside in 1912. It stands at the corner of Worcester Common to the varying delight, chagrin, or titillation of various passers by. Indeed, over the years I have heard all of the somewhat naughty banter about the Burnside Fountain with amusement and curiosity. Indeed, a cursory examination of the fountain gives an amusing, if somewhat strange, impression. For those who aren't privy to said banter, it suffices to say that the statue has been chosen as the masthead of the "Turtle-Boy Love Association".

Despite this buzzing, one day I stopped for a little while and tried to appreciate the statue as art. I have a penchant for antiquity and I have been endlessly suprised at our culture's inability to appreciate the finer things in life. What I saw that day when I stopped was truly amazing.

One can see the wonder in the young boy's eyes as he grasps at the miracle of nature held on his knee. This wonder is a feeling often distant from us in the midst of the city. It is more common in places where life is more diverse, more organic in its environment, and closer to the hand. It is the amazement at being surprised by nature, by its multiplicity and magic; that in a hundred years you never would have dreamed up such a thing as a giant turtle; a thing which completely takes its own existence for granted and is not concerned at all with me or my wonder. It might even try to get away when I try to catch it.

But there is another component at work, as well: innocence. The sentiment of wonder is closely tied to the spirit of innocence. We seem reluctant to let the world surprise us for some reason. Why would we want to keep wonder at arm's length? We would rather imagine, well, whatever, rather than a little boy amazed at the miracle of life.

Thanks to Mrs. Burnside for giving us a little bit of natural wonder in the midst of the city.

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