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Ponder's Dilemma


Bob Hyman

Recently, I was amazed to find in one of Harry's profound statements this bit of absolute truth: There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness." Like a lot of folks, I have several hobbies that compete for my time. Last year, after numerous subtle and not-so-subtle hints from my wife, I decided to construct an outdoor water feature in the back yard. You know the type I'm talking about - a small man-made pond, full of beautiful plants and fish, with a splashing waterfall to create serene music for the lush natural setting.

You must first understand that there is nothing natural about this "natural" setting. Everything is just an illusion; it only appears natural to anyone who has never tried to imitate Mother Nature in miniature. And, as everyone knows, mothers always have the final say.

Now that I've had this amazing creation going for a year, I feel somewhat obliged to pass on to others my lessons learned in bringing this abstraction to life. First of all, let me say without hesitation that everyone should have such an experience. It's the "fraternity principle" - I had to go through it, so you should too.

The best way to think about a pond is that it's just a hole in the ground that ...

... you pour all of your money into.

... makes you question your sanity.

... makes you wonder how dirt can be that heavy.

And after you've constructed and filled it ...

... never seems as big as you thought it would be.

... everyone seems to like it, but you wonder what they really think.

... confirms what your wife always suspected about your creative genius.

... forces you to learn more about pH, hardness, and other chemical properties than many scientists learn in a lifetime.

And after you put in the fish ...

... the prettiest ones you like best will die first, but the ugly ones will live forever.

... they'll frolic like children before your eyes, but hide from sight when others come to look.

... never name them. A pet name is like a death warrant for the poor creature.

And the plants ...

... the expensive ones you really like will never do well, but the cheap ones you hate will multiply like rabbits.

... parasites and snails will always attack the prettiest plants first.

... your water lilies will bloom like crazy, that is until you invite the garden club over to see them.

... the string algae will only accumulate in the places you can't reach.

And the water ...

... will be perfectly clear when you are alone, but will turn green the day of the garden party.

... will only be icky when you have to get into it to upright the overturned planter.

... will finally cycle and come into perfect balance, but not until the day before the weather changes and the ponding season ends.

And as for the others critters ...

... your cute little tadpoles will all turn into toads or the bad kind of frogs.

... you won't have any snakes to worry about unless you are deathly afraid of them.

... the only birds that show up will be the kinds that eat fish.

... every raccoon and homeless cat in the county will know where you live.

Yes, it's just a hole in the ground ...

... but as I sit here writing this, I realize that I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

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