Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Question: Patience and Fortitude?

Answer: Adjectives, noble traits, and also the names of the lion sculptures outside the New York Public Library, on Fifth Avenue.

The lions have been guarding the Library and watching life and history go by (parades, Library fundraising events and parties, commuters, dates, "meet me on the steps", marriage proposals, tourists, etc...) since 1911. They were originally called Leo Lenox and Leo Astor, after the founders. Though they are males, the lions were also called Lady and Lord Astor.

In the 1930's Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia borrowed from Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote, "Patience and fortitude conquer all things." LaGuardia nicknamed the famous lions to reflect the qualities that New Yorkers needed to weather the economic Depression, and the names have stuck.

For the winter holidays, the lions wear holly wreaths and they've worn floral wreaths to signal Springtime. The regular practice of decorating P & F with Mets and Yankees caps, graduation mortars, top hats, etc...was discontinued after the sculptures were cleaned and restored in 2004. I don't see the harm, frankly, but I'm no historic conservator. I like the humor and the incongruity.

I snapped this pic of a house in my old neighborhood, before I moved away. The lions are a tad too big...but they certainly make a statement. The statement that comes to mind is, "Hey, your lions are way too big."

My sister Leslie gave me two cement lions over 20 years ago and I never had quite the right place to put them. They're  a good size, heavy but manageable, 16" high and 28" long. Here at my new house, I finally have the perfect spot--flanking the front entrance on a low wall. They are symbolic to me--two sisters, both of us Leos, with some patience, and plenty of fortitude.

I've named them Finisterre and Flaneur. Don't they look thrilled?
F&F are ROCKIN' their bee costumes for Halloween 2010!

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