‘Ugly Pond’


(ditch as yet not really dug from the gutter to the pond and ‘ugly pond’ trnasforming)


It is the second day of March, the first day (2019) our high desert has been gifted with rain. Thick clouds hung heavy over a shark gray sky this morning obscuring the sunrise, and imagining a few drops of water, I spread some wild seed on cracked bare ground and raked it in with a kind of wild hope while I was waiting for Andrew to arrive.


My dear young friend unloaded some river stones to ring the two baby pear trees. We also planned to use some around the “pond” after Andrew finished digging and sinking the whiskey barrel into the ground. My gratitude for Andrew runs deep. I cannot do the kind of heavy garden work I used to, and to have a friend who can and has the same sort of vision that I do about the way to work with Nature and not against her is such an astonishing gift.


After sinking the barrel we began to place some stones around the round mud filled depression and then I added some Chert (flint) that I had collected from Changing Woman’s Mountain. That’s when I suddenly saw it, the way the pond was supposed to look when finished. Mixing hunks of rusty red, ebony, smoke gray, pink, deep orange and luminescent pearled chert with round river stone created a kind of cascading effect around the tiny enclosure – a waterfall of stones circling (temporarily) muddy water.


For almost a year I have been looking at the original depression I had dug with a kind of ongoing despair – it was so ugly! Yet zillions of hummingbirds dipped down to take a drink last summer, bees loved the tiny river flowers I planted in the mud bottom, insects crawled over the cattail, lizards basked in the early morning sun, and all winter the birds choose this depression as their primary drinking place waiting until the sun warmed the skin of frozen ice turning it to water. All this activity all at the edge of ‘ugly pond’ – so who was I to say what mattered?


I had created this watering place last summer hoping to draw in everyone who might benefit from such a small oasis, but toads and frogs in particular because I loved and missed them so, and because almost every species is threatened with extinction. Finally, a giant western toad made an appearance last August, convincing me forever, that no matter how hideous my pond looked some kind of water filled depression belonged here.


Last fall I replaced the white plastic that I had lined the original depression with (as an experiment to see if my idea would work) digging out the mud, and putting in a black rubber container which turned out, if possible, to be more visually offensive than the temporary experimental plastic. I worried too about that plastic because it is a toxic substance for humans and non – human alike… any toad or frog that might bury her/himself here might absorb poison through its skin. The solution was an oak wooden barrel that I just acquired two weeks ago…


After Andrew left today a little rain did come, and I watched with deep pleasure the way the roof gutter spilled water into the unfinished trough that led to the pond up filling the sunken barrel, another idea whose genesis is Andrew’s very creative mind.


I loved the fact that rain would fill the little pond any time we had a brief shower – five minutes seems to be the new current Climate Change norm with ongoing drought (today was no exception), so every drop is more precious than ever before. Few, besides Indigenous folks know that water from the sky nourishes plants in ways that ground-water does not.


One thing I have learned from living here for almost three years is that every living thing is tuned into falling rain – rain that comes from the Cloud People. Trees open stomata, desert scrub turns luminous sage (if the shower lasts long enough), frogs emerge from the underworld to breed during the summer, and the birds welcome every drop for a bath with a song. I breathe in the moisture – laden air with a hunger I would have never believed possible before I came here. All of Nature knows that Water is Life but the desert’s knowledge is like no other….


Looking out at the half finished pond for the hundredth time I experience a profound sense of relief. It doesn’t have to be ugly, after all! I feel joy rising as I imagine toads emerging from the deep to hide in stony crevices. But mostly, I feel gratitude for this day, for ‘the little rain’, for the help I received, for the hope that comes with having a friend that understands that co creating with Nature is life sustaining for all.

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