In The Lion’s Mouth


In this photo: a lion, a monkey, and some kind of maybe direwolf? Also a bird with huge cojones.

Typically my eyesight is not very good- partly the result of my extreme nearsightedness and partly the result of staring at a computer screen for many hours in a given day, but at the moment my eyesight seems to be very good indeed. Between the bright, direct sunlight and the clear air I can see the outline of every brick. I can count the number of tiles layered on the roof. I can see individual leaves on trees more than two hundred yards away. Considering the rarity of these moments of clarity (pun intended, rhyme by accident) I found myself staring off into the distance for several minutes just to see what I could see.

At the moment I am sitting at the student center enjoying a little fresh air and sunshine between classes. Directly across from me is a brick building trimmed with bas relief sculptures and gargoyles. The gargoyle directly across from me, at eye level, appears to be a direwolf of some kind. The bas relief creatures on the crown of the pilasters seem to be birds on one corner and dogs on another. Above that is a false balcony- wide enough for a flowerpot, maybe, but certainly not a human. The gutters of the balcony- true gargoyles with water spouts for mouths, seem to be some kind of lion. Perched on the lion’s back is some kind of monkey. It is definitely a monkey and not an ape- I can see it’s tail, but why they chose to perch a monkey on a lion’s back is beyond me.

More interesting than the monkey, though, is the bird.

This is a real bird, not a sculpture, and it lives in the lion’s mouth. I first glimpsed this bird when I saw it fly across the courtyard and land on the balcony railing. The human eye is drawn to motion- it is a survival instinct and a major visual concept that we have been learning about for the past semester.  So my eye followed the bird and the bird flew into the lion’s mouth.

On a symbolic level this was interesting to me: the  bird who builds it’s home in a lion’s mouth is a very ballsy bird. But on the other hand, it wasn’t a real lion, so was this really an act of courage or an act of ignorant pragmatism? It made me wonder how often the two are confused for one another.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on April 30, 2014.

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