THE TOPIARY MENAGERIE
Once topiary animals took the garden shears to themselves. At first only a small number dared to snip furtively away at their edges, trimming off a little bit here and a little bit there so the effects wouldn’t be noticed by those charged with maintaining the topiary menagerie to standard pruning guidelines. Uncertain of what they were doing, these venturesome few also wanted to guard against getting ahead of themselves and coming to regret the results. They could have remained as they’d always been, of course. Leaving matters to the experts and their long-established canons of form and proportion would have avoided any untoward missteps. And not a few of the topiary animals themselves warned nervously against the dangers of redefining their own shapes to the slightest degree. Who knew to what lengths headstrong individuals might go in their fumbling boldness, putting the whole of the menagerie at risk of detection and triggering the swift reaction that would assuredly come. For the gardeners had years of training, and the patterns they followed were time-honored ones. If these were violated and visitors to the menagerie could no longer identify their favorite animals at first glance (or even tell a mouse from an elephant, should things go that far), where would it end? Such dangers could not be denied, but neither could the frustration experienced daily over the ignoring or outright denial of individual animals’ inner yearnings. Didn’t a mouse have the right, after all, to cherish a vision of itself as a mighty elephant? Or an elephant to harbor an equal hankering to explore the life of the nimble-footed mouse? And any other creature to release the restive psyche within it? There were bound to be mistakes made as the shears came out in far-flung corners of the menagerie. Many of the animals were feeling their way forward; they’d never ventured into unexplored territory like this before. Sudden liberation of the self could well result in a formless tangle that showed less promise than did the scattered snippets already patterning the ground. Yet boldness might bring inspired sculpting just as often. Who could have guessed that inside a buffalo, a songbird might be awaiting first light or that from a lowly snail a dragon might soar in full majesty? Once such feats of self-fashioning were believed even remotely possible, there was no turning back for the topiary menagerie. All became willing to face whatever might await them for this one chance to be seen as everything they conceived themselves to be.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans