Gnomesville: Mostly Harmless

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy
Hamlet, Hamlet

Life is full of wonder, kid, it’s full of wonders you can barely imagine…
Walter P. Matthias, True Blues

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Yes, it’s true. The world is full of stuff that constantly takes us by surprise when we see it. Some of it too amazing to have anticipated, some of it is too horrible to contemplate. Some of it is just plain unexpected.

An example of the last that I recently had a chance to visit?

Gnomesville

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Gnomesville is a little strip of land in Western Australia, outside the country town of Dardanup, where there are a whole lot of gnomes. Not living ones or anything. Just garden gnomes. cheap ones that you can buy at the local hardware store for $4.00. Or more expensive ones, like…well, I have no idea since I have not spent more than $4.00 for a garden gnome (and that only because of this trip…read on). But there are thousands of them. And thus by implications, thousands and thousands of dollars of garden gnomes.

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Gnomesville is one of those human endeavours that doesn’t make your heart soar at the beauty that God has put into people. Nor does it make you lament at the wickedness that we are capable of. Instead, it just makes you feel something like, “Hmm…this is really strange…” and then you say that over and over again as you walk around, continually discovering more of it with little hill you climb over or tree you move by. All the while, you are tempted to make fun of it, and yet at the same time, there you are, enjoying it and taking pictures, and helping your kids add their gnomes to the mix.

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Of course, you don’t get kind of thing without there being a story behind it. And according to the Gnomesville website, there are two stories. One is about a gnome that was travelling through the countryside when he felt an irresistible pull to a particular roundabout (ie traffic circle) and settled there, eventually drawing others with him. The other story is that the gnomes began to appear as a bit of a quiet protest to this intersection and then developed into a tourist attraction. Somewhere along the way, they were at some point evicted off of the roundabout possibly because they posed a bit of a hazard.

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Now they occupy an area in such numbers that you could easily spend an hour there and not necessarily see everything there is to see. You’ve got ordinary gnomes (“garden variety”, as it were) that have been left by individuals. You’ve got gnomes under trees, along a path, or hiding in grass. You’ve got elaborate gnome-tableaus that really give you the impression of some sort of gnome community, that have obviously been set up with a lot of care by some school class or family or social group.

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(And truth be told, you’ve got of gnomes that look more like Disney dwarves than anything else!  Hey…what are you trying to push on us here?!)

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And of course, if you’re like me, you’ve got another gnome that your younger, more sentimental daughter couldn’t actually stand to leave behind like that. After spending a lot of time finding the perfect spot for it, and making the perfect home under a log, and making sure that it was close to sufficient number of gnome friends, my youngest just couldn’t bear to leave it behind.

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And now, Tim the Gnome lives outside my house. Originally, he was in the more trafficked back yard, until he suffered damage from a young visitor. Now he lives in the front, where he is less likely to come to such grief.

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And of course, I can only wonder as I stare at his inscrutably cheerful features whether he regrets losing his home in Gnomesville so quickly. Whether he is happy, or whether is waiting, watching, hoping…for an opportunity to go back to what surely must be the gnome paradise of the earth, where he can join his gnome brethren in a life free of care and anti-gnome prejudice (even if he might really be a Disney Dwarf).

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