Into a Reflection | Mark Lindsay

Back when I was a small boy, old people had gazing balls in their gardens. I still remember the first time I encountered one. It seemed alien, a shiny object placed there by strange forces. And for a small boy raised to be cautious, it looked very breakable. I imagined what the adults would say if I'd somehow caused the thing to roll off its pedestal and disintegrate. I remember thinking that a lot when I was young—"Just be careful."

The gazing ball turned the world into a panorama of great expansion. I remember seeing myself in the context of the shiny surface. I was certainly there, albeit distorted, but I was oddly integral to a larger perspective. I stared and stared into it again. Back then there was less tolerance for the imagination of a child. Adults were very serious, as I recall, and didn't tolerate frivolous behavior. "He likes to spend a lot of time alone,” I heard my elders whisper on more than one occasion. Gazing balls were good reason to get lost in aloneness. Too bad the adults didn't let go of their adultness long enough to join me at the shiny orb. Why they had these things, but wouldn't stare into them, was a mystery to me. The orb's pedestal was at perfect height for a small boy to continue staring. So I did.

It has always been that way for me and reflections. Now, I like to look into the birdbath in our yard. In its reflection I can see the sky and the giant oak trees that have been here for hundreds of years. One of the oaks died a few years back, just collapsed one day from its own weight. It was a grievous loss. Now the reflection has changed, with a gap to the sky where the tree once was. The reflection seems to be an ideal place to ponder the loss. The bird bath is at perfect height for an adult to continue staring. And so I do.