Pomona of Kentucky
Bowling Green, Kentucky • August 27, 2009
Posted on December 7, 2009, from Fayetteville, Arkansas
The last of Summer's flowers have withered away. They lasted so wonderfully long. Begonia, impatiens, morning glory, marigold . . . holding their bloom 'till the Thanksgiving feasts were done . . . sent to sleep by the belated arrival of the first bitter freeze, the weatherman announcing: "The cold front is marching in." Weathermen are so dramatic.
Pomona in the long ago held the status of goddess. Sacred nymph of ancient Rome, she bestowed her fertile benevolence on fruit trees, orchards, and gardens in the time of their blossoming. This is to say she was not a harvest queen. When I met her, quite by chance at summer's end under the green elms and oaks of Fountain Square Park in Bowling Green, Pomona wore a garland of grapes in her flowing hair. At her waist she held a platter of ripened fruit, fresh from an imagined orchard alongside one of the Seven Hills of Rome.
Can Queen Victoria eat cold apple pie?
A hint of winsome confidence on the purse of her lips, Pomona stood as one of four pagan deities encircling the Fount of Hebe, fountain of youth, flowing with ambrosia. The presence of these ancient feminine goddesses in the center of the city signifies the enduring power of myth and the creatures who make it real — despite the absence of cult and temples, sacred wood and devoted acolytes. Why Pomona, Ceres, Melpomene, Flora, and Hebe as iconic figures in the heart of Bowling Green? Why anything?
Now that Winter's face is appearing, day by day, on the dormant gardens of Crow's Cottage, I think back to my brush with Pomona the cast-iron goddess, straight-backed in her confident stance under the hot sunshine of Kentucky, and how far away she seems to be from this December moment of the cold front, when life's annual act of biological suspension washes away the brilliant colors and verdant shapes of the fallen flowers. I wonder and marvel at our cyclical fate.
Does Pomona hibernate like the tubers and the vines, like the gnarled limbs of the apple and the peach, the olive and the lime? Shall she sleep in dreamy indulgence 'till the equinox rolls round again in March? How might she look, standing there on the other side of the tightly closed windows of the cottage, tall and lonely underneath the maple and the pine? To think: Pomona in our little garden. Were my treasure trove rich with gold and silver, I could buy a copy of her from the bronzeworks in Baltimore, only six or seven grand, and place her on a limestone pedestal beside the circular bed of roses. She would rise like a sour cherry tree on the near horizon.
History records that Pomona, Ceres, Melpomene, and Flora were placed in Fountain Square Park in 1881 and dedicated in May of 1882. According to one source, the four were cast by J. W. Fiske & Company of New York City. But the centerpiece of the park, the towering circular Hebe Fountain, was reportedly cast by a rival company, J. L. Mott Iron Works of the Bronx.
Like public space everywhere, the park is subject to waxing and waning enthusiasms and boom or bust resources of politics and economics. In the one-and-a-third centuries of its existence, Fountain Square and its sculptures have suffered creeping phases of neglect and disrepair, which were dutifully rectified by energetic programs of renewal and rejuvenation. The present manifestation of the serene and stately park is the fruit of a restoration project funded by the Bowling Green Woman's Club in 1990.
Pomona on August 27, 2009
L I N K S :
Fountain Square Park history
The J. L. Mott Iron Works
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Monday, December 7, 2009