There was a gnome on the gnomon, guarding the garden.
“You will pass,” he said.
“I—” I was about to ask about the missing “not” but thought then I should not. I walked forward. He reached out a red concrete hand and blocked me. The path was too narrow for me to go around without traipsing on flowers. I stopped.
“I didn’t say you will pass now.”
“When you say something gnomic.” He folded his arms.
“Gnomic,” I said.
“Economic with words but soaked in gnosis.” He tilted his little hatted head a bit.
“I know.” I could have said “γινώσκω,” but it may have been Greek to him. It would have made the point: something gnomic is of the nature of a gnome – but not a diminutive guardian spirit of the earth; this gnome is a shorty, pithy statement of a general truth, from γνώμη gnomé, ‘thought’.
We don’t know why the gnomes we all know as gnomes are called gnomes. Ask Paracelsus, the German Renaissance scientist and occultist par excellence – he may have invented the name. He may even have invented the gnome!
But that’s academic. I was standing here at the gate to a garden that I so dearly wanted to enter, and I was interdicted by an enchanted chunk of concrete. Beyond: a firework of flowers, a mosh pit of moss, wooden benches backed with capes of leaves ready to be draped on my back as I sat, and cats. But in front was this sundial and its angling guardian taking my time. Puffy blue coat, red mittens, pointy red hat, brown pants, all on a pyknic figure, and all formed of curiously flexible concrete.
He leaned forward and his brow somehow scowled in an oddly animatronic way. “Without something gnomic you won’t be coming any further.”
“Don’t get short with me.” I stepped forward on the path. His hand shot out again.
“Gnome,” he said.
Beyond him I could see a cat curl up on the bench.
I so desired to sit and smell the petrichor and pet the cat. To shower in flowers and dream again in green.
But I did not like this little no-man. A soreness surged in me to spite him in spite of myself. It was thoughtless, but so was I; I could not have piece without giving him a piece of my mind, but I was dry.
“How do you know I will pass?” I folded my arms.
“I know you. You always pass, without fail. You want to go in.”
I leaned close, my mouth next to his ear, and spoke with a scalpel softness. “We can’t have everything we want.”
A concrete hand smacked me on the back of the head and I tumbled forward. I was in. Rubbing my occiput, I went and planted myself on the bench. Now, where did that cat go?
And who still has garden gnomes?