Tag Archives: beauty

Blooming Pond

For years we had a delightful pond and several fish.  But the fish got old, or became some bird’s version of sushi, and the last ones died during a snowstorm once the de-icer went about 5 years ago.   Although the pond continued to run, it slowly devolved into a string algae-mosquito-pit with one — a pretty one — water-lily that refused to give up and several pounds of water iris.   Then it started leaking.   Like a sieve.   Time, money, energy — all kept me from tackling the project.   We’d add fresh water in order to run the pond about once a week to keep the water circulating and the mosquito population at bay.

The Pond - Season One, ca 2003.

The Pond – Season One, ca 2003.

This year, my husband and I decided that it was time to remove the surrounding overgrown weeds and poison ivy and attempt a fix.   I started with rebuilding the waterfalls and 20-foot long stream.   The stream is a vital part of the pond, as it keeps the water circulating.   Two years ago, we only lost water when we ran the stream, so it seemed a logical place to start.   I filled several trash bags of weeds.  Then, I removed and cleaned all of the tiny stones, culling through each bucket-full to remove what seemed like an equal amount of hickory nuts.  The pond was emptied and scrubbed clean.  Three days later, with a new stream liner, a new pump and rearranged river rock, the pond was running!  I was happy to have completed this task.  We noted how the pump seemed to be gurgling a little bit, but I thought that would be a minor adjustment.  Fish and plants were only a few days away.

Stream Running!

Stream Running!

We left for dinner to celebrate (actually, after having worked outside all day, I didn’t feel like cooking!).   When we arrived home a few hours later, the water level in the pond was remarkably lower.   Yep, there was still a leak.  The next day I began by turning over some rocks.   I already had pulled out an overgrown patch of day lilies from an area that was originally intended for a bog garden.  As I moved some of the rocks I found what looked like a small hole in the liner.  The ground did seem a little saturated in the area, but it had rained overnight.   The only option was to remove the rock wall to get to the liner.  Several pounds of rock later, we saw the problem.  In fact, my assistant overturned one rock to see not only the large holes in the liner but the perpetrator — a mole!

That varmit!

That varmint!

A hole?” the pond store owner said.  “Not a problem.  Just use this kit and let it dry before you refill.”   We followed the instructions to repair the six holes, waited a day, then refilled the pond.   Again, I claimed victory, thinking fish and water plant acquisition was only a few days away.  The next day?  You’ve probably already guessed:  the pond was again down a few inches.   I turned off the pump and waited.   By the end of the day, it was down another few inches.  It definitely was not the pump or the stream.

Try milk.” a friend and fellow pond-owner said.   I looked at her like she just returned from another planet.   “I don’t have enough cows to fill the pond….” I quipped.   “And why would I want to?”    A google query gave me the answer and handy instructions.   Because of the difference in density, milk will flow much more quickly towards a leak than water, leaving a visible trail.   I poured a bit of aging milk from the fridge into the pond.   It spiraled away from the center with long tendrils reaching in three different directions.

Once again, we emptied the pond.   (This was the third time if you’re keeping track at home).  More rock was removed.   More critter-chewed holes were found.  More trips to the store were made for patching materials.   Finally, the pond was ready to be filled — again!   We had removed the stones all the way around the pond, with the exception of the main waterfall ledge, so we were ready to sit back, relax to the melodic sounds of the water (and the occasional gurgle), and observe the soon-to-be-purchased fish swim gracefully around the pond.   I was more cautious this time, though.   I made no plans for a koi-buying trip yet.

More holes.  Just like swiss cheese.

More holes. Just like swiss cheese.

I woke the next morning and looked at the pond.   I thought of Captain Kirk yelling “KHAN-N-N-N!” except my battle-cry was “MOLL-L-L-L!”  The water was still escaping.  For the fourth time, the water was pumped and bailed out of the pond.   “If I had known it would take so much, I would have told you to order a few trucks of dirt” my husband said encouragingly.    I went back to the pond store to buy a new liner.

All of the rocks, of course, had to be removed again to get to the old liner, a 17 x 20 piece of a rubber-like material.  Putting the stones back round the pond to hold the liner in place is a bit  like piecing a puzzle – or playing Tetris.  It isn’t something that happens quickly.   On Saturday, once again, the pond was running.   Sunday morning, the water level was down again, but not as far.   I went back to the stream and found a few low spots where water may have been leaking over the edge of the liner.   This is an easy fix – only slight shifting of river rock was necessary.

On a whim, I decided that I was going to try to figure out the gurgling noise.   As I leaned against the top of the biofilter to remove a covering rock, my hand slipped to the side.  It wasn’t just muddy along the side of the filter:  there was flowing water.   The tray had cracked and was spilling water outside of the pond stream and behind the filter housing.

Another trip to the pond store — those people are getting to know me quite well — we made a deal for the piece we needed.   The store owner was willing to cannibalize a piece from an entire assembly.   I didn’t want to dig out a four-foot deep bucket and I didn’t want to pay the almost heart-stopping price for the entire assembly.   “I hope to be back in a few days,” I said. “For fish and plants. But I’ve said that before!

As I was starting to leave I remembered the gurgling.   “That’s an easy fix“, the storeowner said.   “I’ll give you the piece of pipe you need.   It’s on the house!“.

By Monday afternoon it was apparent that the pond was functional.   It had been filled for the fifth time and was running smoothly.   All the rocks were back in place, weeds were removed from the surrounding area, solar landscaping lights added, and the borders were mulched.   Time for fish and plants.

I spent this afternoon — a typical humid Indiana summer day — planting some perennials around the pond.   The iris that had been in the pond had a rootball that seemed about 50 pounds.   That was subdivided into four plant groupings and placed in aquatic baskets.   I re-potted a few rushes and a pickerel plant I bought today.   There was only one plant left to add to the pond — a large lotus plant.  The planter was huge.  There was no way that I could just set it into the pond; I had to be IN the pond.   I was already so drenched from the humidity that I hardly noticed a difference when I slipped into the pond to place it.

At last! The pond is done!



There was only one problem though.   The lotus that I bought — a real splurge for my hard work — was beautiful when I picked it out.    A few of the petals fell off one of the two blooms as I moved it to my car.   I arrived home and unloaded the plants just as it started to storm — a storm that blew off each of the lovely petals on the remaining bloom!

It will bloom again, but for now, it looks a little like a Dr. Seuss plant.  But it is sure better than another leak in the pond!

What was left after the storm

What was left after the storm

Sunday Quote, 2013, Week 18, Charlie Chaplin

“I do not have much patience with a thing of beauty that must be explained to be understood.  If it does need additional interpretation by someone other than the creator, then I question whether it has fulfilled its purpose.”
– Charlie Chaplin

For no reason

For no reason

Except just to be

Except just to be

Sunday Quote (2012 Week 11)

Beauty — be not caused — It is.

~ Emily Dickinson

Naples Botanical Garden, January 2012


I’ve spent a great deal of time during the last week walking up and down the beach, observing and photographing marine life at the shore line. Some of the shells have been alive — it is against the law, as it should be, to remove live shells from the beach — and others, tossed into the wrack by the waves or exposed for too long by low tides, are dead, picked over by the birds and the beachcombing shell-seekers.

I’m conflicted about shell collecting. One one hand, I understand why people would want to pick them up. They are fascinatingly beautiful, an infinite variety of shapes, sizes and colors. They are a reminder of how abundant life under the water is. Some are as smooth as a blown glass paperweight, some as shiny and iridescent as jewels, and all are as unique and intricate as individual ice crystals or snowflakes. Even those left by the shell collectors are beautiful in their brokenness.

And yet, these are the remnants of dead animals. A cockle shell may make a perfect scoop for digging sand for a sand castle, but it once had another half and a living organism inside. Together, both halves would clamp shut to protect the mollusk from predators. I picked up a cockle yesterday, tossed high unto the beach beyond the mangroves. I realized once it was in my hand that it was still alive. How quickly it closed when it sensed danger. I put it back down on the sand and sat nearby and watched. I thought it might open up again, but it remained tightly sealed. I wondered if it knew that danger might still be nearby. I would not have been able to pull it open with my hands; I would have needed some sort of tool to pry the shell apart had I wanted to. What an incredible design! Too have pried open the shell would have been like pulling the wings off of a fly.

I took a 6.5 mile walk on the beach yesterday, walking to the south end of the island. While some of the houses and hotels are near the shoreline, because there are some inner lagoons and mangroves between the resorts and the shore, there is about a mile of beach that does not get heavy foot traffic. I suspect that shellers come here early in the morning at times, but there was only one low tide yesterday, about midday. One of the things that has amazed me as I’ve walked nearly the entire 7 mile gulfside beach of this barrier island is how different the shells are that wash ashore. I’m sure that part of it has to do with the currents and the depth of the ocean. The season is likely a factor as well. There were red tide warnings in Charlotte Harbor area last week, and I wonder if that is not a reason why there are so many Rough Pen and Saw-tooth Pen shells on the beach this week. I’ve never seen so many at one time. There was a mile I walked the other day where they were everywhere, but the next mile had none. Yesterday, as I walked the nearly deserted area of the beach, I found many unbroken scallops shells. I rarely see any near on the section of beach where we stay.

I did pick up the scallops, so that I could photograph them later. I’ve picked up many shells this week but it is likely that I will return them to the beach. While beautiful in their complexities, not only am I not much of a collector of anything, I can’t imagine shells displayed in my home. They would not remind me of the shore. It seems as if they belong where there is salt water and sand.

And yet the scallop shells, have taken on a new meaning for me. A few months ago, I heard of someone walking the Camino de Santiago, a 1000 year old pilgrimage path across northern Spain. Immediately I thought: I want to do that! I’m in the early stages of planning a trip now. How does this relate to a scallop shell? The Camino de Santiago is known as the Way of St. James and the scallop is the historical symbol of St. James. It may be hard to not take a scallop with me as a reminder of my future trek across northern Spain. I counted how many I had once I returned from my walk yesterday. There were 33 of them; one of the books I’m reading recommends 33 days to walk the camino.

Sunday Quote (2012 Week 3)

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.

Lovely Leaves

Usually, this time of year, I’m vacationing in Southwest Florida. I love going to the gulf during October. It is still warm, but usually not too hot. The beaches aren’t crowded, and you miss the winter traffic. In fact, it’s a bit early for the snowbirds, so many places are like ghost towns. And, if you’re there Oct 15 or later, it’s Stone Crab Claw season.

For several reasons, we didn’t go this year. I thought that I’d really miss going. But, I realized the other day, that I typically remark, upon my return from the airport, driving up the leaf-covered driveway, that I feel like I’ve missed something with the turning of the leaves.

As I’m discovering this week — a glorious week weather-wise in the Midwest — the leaf-turning does happen quickly. Trees fully covered in the morning can be bare-boned by sunset. It’s been in the 70’s this week, above the average temperature, but since it was colder at night last week, the trees have received the message to stop photosynthesizing, revealing the magnificent colors that were in the leaves all along, hidden by the chlorophyll.

I remember years ago my former husband, who had grown up in high mountain desert, comment that he thought the landscape in the Midwest was boring, because everything was green. To me, that is like saying that the sky is the same color as the ocean. Yes, the leaves are green, but the maples differ from the oaks from the hickories from the firs, each reflecting light a bit differently. Perhaps it is their underlying colors, the ones you see only in Autumn, that vary the green. Doesn’t matter, though, how the color wheel of nature combines it all; it is beautiful.

Lovely Leaves

Some things in nature are beautiful, but you need to keep away

I have to say, bees, wasps and hornets fascinate me, even though, like ants, the social colony aspect of them seems creepy to me. I also think that it is a good thing that these creatures are so tiny, because they would be truly horrifying to look upon if they grew to the same scale as humans.

I started noticing yellow jacket activity near one of my hummingbird feeders the other day. I watched for a while, from several different angles to see if I could find where they were coming from. I was concerned that it might be one of the house soffits. In another house, many years ago, I had a huge yellow jacket next in the attic space. I found out about it when they ate through the drywall ceiling and filled my house. My son was in kindergarten and learning to count to 100. After the terminator had fogged the house and we vacated for eight hours, we returned and B practiced his counting as we cleaned up. I think we reached 100 about 8 or 9 times — and that didn’t include the ones that I vacuumed from chair cushions and window sill corners. But, more memorable, was when the contractor tore out the dry wall, filling a large trash can with wallboard and hive. The sticky sweet stench was overpowering. It was in hopes of avoiding a repeat that I tried to find the nest.

The next day, as I was returning from my morning walk, I noticed a constantly moving stream of winged creatures near one of my shrubs. And then I saw it, hanging like a paper lantern, under one of the limbs that reached out over the drainage ditch.

I got close enough to it to see that they weren’t yellow-jackets and to decide that I needed to call an terminator. I also thought: Cool! I need to go put my macro lens on my camera! I can get some great shots.

Luckily, I gathered some practical sense and decided to look on the internet to see what sort of winged stingy things these were. Turns out that Bald-Faced Hornets are one of the more aggressive stingy waspy things in this part of the world and that they don’t need much to provoke them. Revised plan: telephoto lens.

The hive really is beautiful, but I’m glad that I wasn’t stung repeatedly. I would have liked to have held the nest, to feel how heavy — or light — it was. The texture of the nest, the way that the wavy lines gently swirl around the asymmetrical sphere: beautiful. In the late afternoon light, hidden in the shadow of the evergreen, it seems as smooth and cool as a piece of opaque art glass.

The terminator apparently came by this afternoon and removed the remains as he said he would. I won’t experience the stench of their sap and remains. I wish that they had chosen to build their home this summer high up in a tree, far away from my driveway and mailbox and the street, someplace where I could have left them undisturbed, where they could have stayed in their beautiful home without posing a threat to us humans who claim this space too.

Why I’m afraid that I would never finish Joyce’s Ulysses if I started it

At the end of the book, the characters Molly and Bloom drift off to sleep under “[t]he heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.”

I found this quote somewhere yesterday. (I don’t remember where, unfortunately. I’ll update this later if I find it again.)
Update: How could I have forgotten where I saw this? Facebook news feed from Metropolitan Museum of Art referring to Richard Hamilton’s print The Heaventrees of Stars.

How could you ever want to reach the end of something that contains such beauty?

Heaventree of stars

humid nightblue fruit

Absolutely lovely.

Must amend To Be Read list. Must find time.