Owed to an Urn



What mad pursuit? What wild ecstasy? 
To seek the proper vessel 
to grace my doorway 
did I sally forth.

If John Keats were alive and saw my new urn, he might be stirred to pen an ode, much as he immortalized a Grecian one.

Mine is Mexican and has no engravings, but it is statuesque and adorned with just the proper amount of wrought iron to give it a rustic yet finished look. The base of the vessel sits on three wrought-iron feet. From there, the form gently gains girth — until, near the top, rounded shoulders come in to a graceful neck, atop which the edge flares just enough to welcome a gathering of dried branches but not enough to accept a basketball. Its rich, burnt sienna exterior has just the proper amount of burnish to provide sheen yet retain a texture that adds depth to the coloration.

The urn is heavy enough to withstand a strong wind, though it sits in an interior hallway, so, perhaps, I should say it is heavy enough to withstand being bumped into by your average person (I’m talking “average” here as in size, not as in intelligence, as a person of average intelligence probably is smart enough not to bump into an object “nestled” into a corner).

Protruding from the urn’s top are bamboo poles; curvaceous dried branches painted black; and a “tangle” of green, orange and beige dried stems with curlicued tops.

Those who think an urn seems too simple a decorative item to wax on about this way have not digested Keat’s famous ode — nor have they experienced the sense of accomplishment that comes in the search for the appropriate décor for an odd corner.

The corner where my urn sits is odd because its 90-degree turn is sandwiched between a door that is offset at an angle and an angled turn in the other direction. When I moved into the apartment that lies just inside the door that sits at an angle to this odd corner, the layout struck me as a tad unwelcoming. It’s not as though I feel compelled to make anyone named Tad or other assorted strangers want to knock on my front door. But, like most reasonable people, I want to present a welcoming entrée to invited guests.

I weighed my options. A wreath on the door? As much as a wreath conveys a “Hello there” message, it would obscure the apartment number, which doesn’t serve the purpose of making invited guests feel welcome (“Hey, please come if you can find me, ha ha”).

A doormat — especially one that reads “Welcome” — would be appropriate, except, as I said, I don’t want to invite strangers to knock on my door expecting entrée. And, in any event, a mat, like a wreath, would not do much for the odd corner.

What I really needed, I decided, was an object that would cover the corner footprint. It would need to be of sufficient height to make a presence and of an insufficient width to avoid blocking actual entry through my front door (though my apartment has no “back” door, I still think of it as my “front” door, as I do have a sliding-glass door to a balcony and interior doors). In any event, whatever object I chose would need to complement — or at least avoid clashing with — the hallway carpeting that I had no choice in selecting but which is thankfully more neutral than the gaudy carpeting used in many a casino and hotel ballroom.

I set out on my search for an odd-corner-worthy urn several weeks ago. What I found was either too short, too lightweight, had too wide or too narrow of an opening, was too audaciously colored or cost too much (especially in view of the fact that this objet would be sitting beyond the space I can protect behind lock and key). I finally had my Goldilocks moment when I espied the aforedescribed urn at a store in Palm Springs. It fit perfectly laid across the backseat of my car, where it was strapped in for the drive back to San Diego.

Of course that was not the end of my recherche déco. An empty vessel is, well, an empty vessel. Now I needed something to give the urn “purpose.” It would need an architectural aesthetic that would capitalize on the lighting in the corner, i.e., something that would cast a striking shadow.

At one store, I pulled from shelf bins one after another of dried bundles of various height, color and design. Unfortunately, carrying my urn to the store with me was unfeasible, so I had to imagine how these various bundles would look. I knew it would take more than one for capacity and interest, so I tried different combinations in the store aisle. I found something I liked, but was not prepared to make a commitment simply because this was the first store on my expedition and there were possibilities to weigh just down the street. At that second home accessories retailer, I was surprised how much dried branches cost. Too bad I don’t live near a forest.

So I returned to the first store, where I bought bamboo poles and dried stems with curlicued tops. Unfortunately, when I put them in the urn, there was clearly something missing. So I got back in my car and went to IKEA, where I had on a much earlier occasion seen tall, dried branches painted black and curved on the “upper” ends.

Because of my new urn, I find the corner less foreboding and enjoy the “vignette” every time I leave and every time I return to my domicile. 


Janice Kleinschmidt


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