Friday, June 04, 2010

The object #3

Cast iron carp (koi) garden lantern. 

Did you know that in China and Japan carp symbolize fortitude and endurance? I didn't know that until after I brought this handsome fellow home.

One morning, several years ago, Beth and I were out on our morning walk on the Fanno Creek Trail. As we crossed a street that bisects the trail we saw a poster for an estate sale just up the street and decided to check it out. What we discovered was a very unusual little home, built around a central courtyard and filled with lovely things from around the world, mostly Asian in origin. The couple who lived there had both died and everything was for sale. Beth fell in love with a small painting of a Chinese couple and I loved the carp the moment I saw it. We paid for our treasures and continued our walk. The carp is cast iron and hangs from a heavy iron chain. I started out swinging him along by his chain, but I kept bumping my leg with the heavy piece and my arm began to ache from the weight. I changed arms, but the further I walked the heavier he seemed to become. Finally, I wrapped him in my sweatshirt and carried him in both arms like a baby—a very hefty baby. By the time we reached the end of our three-mile walk my shoulders and neck were straining with the weight and I was puffing and panting pretty hard! I stopped at a garden shop on my way home to buy an iron crook to plant in the garden where I wanted to hang my carp. Once I had cleaned him up and hung him I knew it was worth all the effort. Now he swims through our new garden. This is how he looks at night with a candle inside.

I've never seen another like it, but I found this site from England, where you can order a very similar one.

To me, previously owned and loved (I imagine) objects carry with them a bit of history and untold stories that make them much more special than something plucked off a store shelf, pristine and stickered and documented. I wonder where his previous owners got him. I imagine that he brought them a lot of pleasure and I hope they would approve of his current home.


  1. I absolutely LOVE this - I'm so envious, I never stumble upon things (like an estate sale!) with such serendipity.

  2. I had a similar fish. Mine was ceramic, not iron. I just loved him but one day he was dropped and broke. :-(

  3. Remembber the original funky Pier One Imports? Hey had thee by the boat loads. That was many MANY years ago. Putting him on the hook was brillant. Looks great

  4. He looks marvelous illuminated.