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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
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
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
... 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
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