Shadows and a show of flowers in the telling of time

3 05 2010

I had a fascination with shadows ever since I was little, well before my introduction to shadow puppetry by my Grandmother. My shadow was, for a while, a friend to me, following me when the light did shine, seemingly afraid, as I was of its larger sibling that was darkness. The fascination also extended to an implement with which shadows were used, one that was present in a garden which my parents frequented in the early days of my life. The whitewashed pedestal like structure that stood in the the Botanic Gardens, which my parents referred to as “Botanics”, inscribed with the words “WHAT THOU SEEKEST IS A SHADOW” on its four faces, and topped with a simple gnomon which cast a shadow onto a plate is the well known sundial, which many visitors to the Botanic Gardens would have come across.

My introduction to the sundial at the Botanical Gardens in 1966.

The sundial.

Today, the pedestal still stands, telling the time as it did all those years back, and given a place of honour in its own part of the gardens, the Sundial Garden. It is now topped with a more elaborate gnomon and furniture, one that perhaps attracts a lot more interest to the sundial than it back then.

The well maintained sundial today topped with a new gnomon and furniture.

The sundial is given a place of honour in a garden of its own.

Lily pads in the Sundial Garden.

Besides the sundial, I enjoyed visiting an object which told time in a brighter way. There were these two floral clocks that I remember, one which was in the Botanic Gardens, and another on the western slope of Fort Canning Hill. These clocks were quite common in public parks and gardens the 1960s and 1970s, and I remember seeing them in Malaysia as well. Decorated by brightly coloured flowers, they remain only in memory. It would be nice to see them again, but it must have taken quite a fair bit of effort to maintain them, and this would probably be the reason why we won’t see them anymore. At least, I still have my old friend the sundial, who I do visit from time to time.


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