Saturday, July 10, 2010

Staircase finished

My garden staircase at Gamone is finished.

Eight steps in all. Here's a closeup view of the upper half:

There's no way in the world that the crumbly earth on either side of the staircase might be persuaded to align itself magically, in the immediate future, with the stone steps. Only the growth of vegetation can play a slow role (no less magically) in filling in the gaps between the staircase and its immediate surroundings. To initiate the process of stabilizing this soil, I've started to plant herbs and shrubs.

In the two photos of the staircase, don't be misled by the perspective distortion. I assure you that all the eight steps are perfectly horizontal. On the other hand, I've noticed a trivial anomaly that had escaped me. Between the 4th and 5th steps, the small riser (vertical slab) in the middle has its ripples running the wrong way. I might have tried to tell you that I made this mistake deliberately, to create an instance of the concept known in Japanese as wabi-sabi, which is defined by an expert as follows:

From an engineering or design point of view, "wabi" may be interpreted as the imperfect quality of any object, due to inevitable limitations in design and construction/manufacture especially with respect to unpredictable or changing usage conditions; then "sabi" could be interpreted as the aspect of imperfect reliability, or limited mortality of any object, hence the etymological connection with the Japanese word "sabi", to rust.

The French potter Maurice Crignon (a friend of Christine) once explained to me that, in the universe of ceramics, the wabi-sabi is often materialized by an intentional crack in an otherwise perfect pot.

The French movie director/scriptwriter Michel Audiard [1920-1985] said (my translation):

Crackpots are lucky.
The light can get into their skulls.

The Canadian poet/singer Leonard Cohen said much the same thing:

There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in.

In the garden at Gamone, light gets in through that wrongly-oriented slab in the middle of the staircase.


  1. Between the 5th and 6th on the way up or the way down ?

  2. Thanks, Ron, for pointing me to an error, which I've just corrected.

  3. You had me wondering whether you might have been - in an almost wabi-sabi sort of way - conducting a little test to check who was paying attention. It's a fine staircase, Bill, and I think the riser with the vertical ripples adds character.