Do you ever wish you could stop time and revisit a scene from your past?
Do you ever wonder how your world can drift slowly off into a new direction, before you ever realize it?
Do you find it odd — or comforting — that even though that happens, some things stay the same? Just that, perhaps you have to view them from a different, maybe even parallel perspective?
If I could freeze-frame a scene from the past, or restore it, I’d put the time machine on rewind; and I’d go back to…
Water World 1998
(Living Column: By Susan Parcheta, Fowlerville News & Views)
Our backyard has taken on a whole new dimension this year. We’ve succumbed to the pool and pond mania sweeping across the country.
The garden magazines, the newspapers, all feature the wonders of the backyard pond. The photos are beautiful…enticing you to try your hand at carving up your yard.
I never thought I’d be on a soapbox, encouraging people to create a water garden. I never figured I’d be studying the environment of fish, frogs and snails…or pondering thoughts of water lilies.
Being around water is considered therapeutic. That’s why we naturally head for the lakeshore…the ocean…a stream. We love fountains, rivers and waterfalls. We’re transfixed by waves lapping a shoreline. We intuitively feel restored when surrounded by calm waters. “By the
shore of Gitche Gumee, By the shining Big-Sea-Water,” penned Henry Wadsworth Longfellow of our land of Hiawatha.
Hydrotherapy is healing to body and soul: Nature has its own version. I’ve rested by the ocean in Florida, feeling the power and surge of endless waves curling up, dumping treasures of seashells. I’ve monitored the tides at Galveston and at the monastery at Mont St. Michel on the Normandy coast. I’ve felt the mystery of a night flight over the blackened ocean below, lit only by a shaft of moonlight.
I’ve visited the shores of Gitche Gumee. This year, on my birthday–on the far reaches of the Keweenaw– I reflected on a magnificent sundown. I tried not to blink, keeping my gaze steady as the searing orange-red ball that warms our planet melted silently into the watery cauldron. Surely this was Hiawatha’s song.
There’ve been other water moments. For many summers, I watched my kids frolic, building castles on the sandy shores and dunes overlooking Lake Michigan or the beach at Pinckney Recreation Area. I’ve lived on the St. Clair River, in constant wonderment at the flow of water, the boats, the churn of freighters passing by. Moving away, I knew I’d miss the river’s effect.
These momentary miracles of time spent by the water are like post cards in my mind. I can pull out the memories and revisit them. And I hope to add to my collection, with many more pictures in years to come.
We’re lucky here in Michigan. Our state is bounded by the longest shoreline. We’re a water world of lakes, rivers and waterfalls. No matter where you live, you don’t have to travel far to be near water.
Without traveling, you can wriggle your toes, splashing with tots in a backyard wading pool. Or, you might have a simple above ground swimming pool for swimming laps, trying a bit of water ballet, or drifting on a raft—eyes heavenward—floating peacefully.
As for pond gardens, you can easily enjoy your own water world at home.
It doesn’t have to be grandiose. Last year we thought bigger was better. We sculpted out a pond with the liner, etc. It was nice, but it leaked. We gave up and made it into a bog garden.
This year, we’ve discovered the joys of the minuscule. We bought a simple pre-formed pool. It’s small, but it has ledges for plants and rocks. We can see what’s in it.
I’ve never had an aquarium …never had the slightest interest in fish watching. The nearest thing to goldfish in my life was dipping for them in the Pepperidge Farm bag. Now, we’ve experienced the pleasure of watching them grow, seemingly developing their own personalities, like our cats. Needless to say, we’ve become attached.
We’re avid observers, now, of our Lilliputian pond life: the fantails, the snails we tucked in. And would you believe it? We’ve unwittingly created a frog habitat. We’re talking frog condos here–as my mother-in-law described the scene. It remains a mystery where they came from. But the tiny pool turns out to be a frog paradise. It’s fun to see how many can cling to the water hyacinths and sea lettuce. So we’re frog watchers now, as well.
Perhaps the most interesting addition to the water garden is the Egyptian Papyrus plant standing tall in one corner. It could grow to 15 feet, the nurseryman said. He said it’s the same as Moses’ bulrushes. Sitting under it is like time travel…back into the pages of my Sunday school books…back to the banks of the Nile.
I’ve never been to Egypt or the Holy Land. But I remember the story of Moses. It’s a good feeling being among the bulrushes—-and the cattails from my dad’s pond, actually my first “water world.” His is a quiet “Golden Pond” now, manmade at one time for pumping gravel. There the family anglers have plenty of room for bass fishing, and Canadian Geese make it a summer quarters.
In our tiny pond, an old-fashioned pitcher pump [brought from another water haven—the lakeshore cottage we once inhabited near Brighton] circulates the water. The goldfish make a game of darting under its cascade.
Next year’s project is to finish the downhill stream to flow into the pool. Otherwise it will remain a dry creek bed. But that’s ok, too. Your backyard water garden is as individual as your landscape and creativity. You don’t have to travel to Giverny to Monet’s garden. You can grow a water lily in a patio tub.
Think about it this winter. Curl up by the fire with a stack of those garden magazines and daydream about what your water garden might be.
As home/garden guru Martha Stewart would put it: “A water world—it’s a good thing.”
Because I wrote that column, in reading it again from my 2011 vantage point, I see how much we enjoyed that water world. Our backyard is missing that congenial, peaceful habitat; and I’d like it back.
My outlook hasn’t changed; it’s expanded. I’m even more of a Nature person than I was then. I’m even more tuned in to the healing power of being in Nature as much as possible.
“Nature is man’s teacher,” wrote Alfred Billings Street. “She unfolds her treasures to his search, unseals his eye, illumines his mind, and purifies his heart; an influence breathes from all the sights and sounds of her existence.”
Yes, I think I’m finally learning those truths. So, where is my water garden? I thought of it last night when a frog visited our back porch. How fun it was to have a frog pond. How relaxing to hear the sound of trickling water. How pleasant to sit among the bulrushes. While it was no Giverny, it became a creative oasis, our own healing garden.
A little re-landscaping, a little tender care, a little digging in the dirt, and we can rediscover the benefits of a backyard pond. And, guess what? Martha is still around to tell us that’s a good thing, too.