Sunday, August 22, 2010

The pond is done

Sorry about that. I went into a massive funk right in the middle of the fish pond build. As usual it came without notice or warning. Over the years I’ve learned how to function during these dark times but only just. I’ve trained myself in hiding it from people around me, but it’s not easy. My tendency is to be very quiet, sullen and to lash out for the smallest things; and since for the most part I stay away from people in “the outside world” the only ones that suffer are the people around me.

My dad was like that and I hated it because he made everyone else around him as miserable as he apparently was. When I catch myself being like that, when I hear that high pitched aggravated questioning whine in my voice, like he used to have, I go back to those ugly times when most everything we did seemingly pissed him off, which would cause him to say mean things, which irritated the hell out of teenage Phil, usually to the point of intensely quiet fury.

Ah teen boy angst; I’m glad those days are long gone. I still have a diary somewhere from 1973-75 where most of the entries concern the latest run in with my father. My God, I do NOT want to be the cause of that kind of murderous rage in someone else; although I think I might have done exactly that to my first batch of babies. Sorry guys.

Ironically though, the times I most enjoyed with my dad were when we were involved in home projects, whether it was putting in a row of fruit trees, building a fence, or digging a ditch for drainage tiles. I say it’s ironic because this post is about my own latest project—the finishing of my fishpond waterfall.

So, the fishpond waterfall is done. I have to say, it turned out better than what I imagined. It took us a few extra days to get it sealed, but a few coats of sealant and some time to let it cure did the trick.

We spent a lot of time getting the landscaping stones in place. With all the rain here, especially this time of year, I wanted at least 6 or more inches of small river stone to keep the standing water clean and give it a place to go while it seeps into the ground.

I love thinking about the origin of all these stones and rocks. Over the millennia all of them have been ejected from deep within the earth from the caldera of Mount Pinatubo. Many people here in Angeles do not realize that they live on a plain formed by thousands of pyroclastic flows. It’s why the Americans came here in 1902 to build Fort Stotsenberg until the name was changed to Clark Air Base many years later. The volcanic flows of rock and lahar built up high and flat so that flooding is never a problem for us. It’s ironic though that the very thing that brought the Americans here is what chased them away. The Pinatubo eruption of ’91 turned out to be the final straw and President Bush decided to call it quits. As for me, I’m perfectly happy that we left. While we were here it gave the academics and politicos a reason to blame their problems on the US. Even now the academic elite continue to do it—very Obamaesque.

My depressive issues really affected my worker bees, especially one particularly sensitive fellow. The poor guy, who is Divine’s nephew, is already antsy around me what with Divine always reminding them that I was a marine sergeant. THAT really impresses these folks I noticed. I went out one morning to find him already putting water back into the pond. I asked him, probably a bit too intensely as I think back on it, if he had cleaned all the concrete dust off the stones first. His muted nebulous response told me he hadn’t. I came unglued; first at him, and later with Divine. She’s used to me, but later she told me that he was so flustered by the experience that he completely lost it. He didn’t know what to do or where to go to do it. I felt bad and made sure to praise him for the next bit of good work he did. He always tries so hard too; what a JERK I am!

From that experience and others early on in the project I learned that it is best to hover over everything that is done, especially one like this one was where every rock and stone is basically a visual piece of an overall work of art. Their tendency was to throw rocks and stones into place without any regard to context, size, color or pattern. I always reminded them that nature is random. It’s rare to find stones lined up, all the same size, shape and shade. I don’t believe they ever got it. Realizing that, I personally placed every single stone and rock into place. It went like this: “Here, try this one. It’s the perfect shape for that spot, and dang, look at the color of it! Wait, turn it around; no, the other way. Okay, turn it upside down. No, no. Wait; I’ll come over and do it…”

They hid it, but I’m sure they became frustrated with my pickiness. It must have seemed that nothing they did was right. I always wanted it done a little bit different, and usually it meant only a miniscule turn of the stone. I could see the difference, but I’m not sure that they did. I’m convinced that they have a very limited sense of the aesthetic. I know this from other things they do, like when they throw their cigarettes and candy wrappers to the ground as if they magically disappear once they are tossed. They won’t do it around me as they are wary of my wrath; but as soon as “the watcher” is out of sight, I’m out of mind as well.

All that was forgotten when we had it all in place—every stone, pebble and rock—and I motioned for the on button to be pushed to activate the pump. Whoosh! The bifurcated frog fountain jetted two streams well out of the pond almost to the house. Edgar rushed over to adjust the appropriate valve to tame the frog’s out of control effusion of water. I called out what valve needed to be turned up or down and in less than a minute we had all the water sources perfectly in tune.

For a few seconds we just stood there staring at this gorgeous thing we had wrought. I looked at each of their faces and saw nothing but wide-eyed wonderment. They were almost stunned by what they were viewing. Truthfully, it looked much as I hoped it would, but rarely does something like this completely meet all expectations. This time, it definitely did.

“Boys! YOU did it. Oh my God, this thing is a work of art. Thanks guys. You did an amazing job. Wow!”

I fist bumped each and every one. For another few minutes we all continue to just stand there and look at it. Truly, it was a magical moment. I have to say, it was at that moment that my depression lifted like a veil. I could feel the peace filtering into my body. I felt totally relaxed, even sleepy, from the sound of the falling water. I sat on one of the benches that Eddie had welded together for me specifically for that site and practically collapsed. For the next hour I sat there sipping a beer and just grinned.

There is something special about this project. We’ve had many others that actually took more skill to accomplish, such as the tower, and even the porch, but none of those accomplishments competes with the beauty of the pond and its waterworks. All the boys know it. It’s been complete for several days now and still I find them coming back to enjoy that which they had a part in making. I encourage them to come back and check it out whenever they want; I can feel their intense pride in having fabricated something so special. Even though I paid for it to be built, of course they will always feel a bit of ownership and rightly so. Before letting them go I took a picture of them all standing on the rampart behind the waterfall wall. I’ll post it here.

The final pieces of the puzzle are the living pieces—the fish and the plants. Yesterday we finished that all up as well. We will eventually try some koi in the pond but for now we bought some cheap multicolored gold fish-looking carp into the water. We also threw in some river guppies from the nearby Abakan River. So far, we’ve had a few mortalities. I hope it’s not from any concrete dust residue or a reaction to the sealant chemicals. We’ll see how that works out over the coming days.

In the meantime, I continue to be captivated by the falling water streams and how it all plays off the rock and stones in the wall. There are four valves controlling four different water sources. I can make each of them gush or trickle. Even a small change in flow changes the sound and the way the water cascades off individual rocks. I’m fascinated by this and find myself constantly experimenting with the water flow volume and by moving loose stones around on the face of the water fall. I doubt if I ever stop.

It’s also a great way of putting into the spectacle some new colorful stone that I found. I have all the nephews and cousins now looking for interesting stones and rocks now. My electrician, Edgar, who is particularly taken with the whole thing, marveled that he has spent his whole life around the river and never realized how beautiful the stones could be. He shook my hand, “I’ve been around Americans since I used to work on the base and it’s amazing how you guys always seem to find a new way to amaze me!”

“Ah shucks, come on Edgar. But you know what? Flattery will get you EVERYTHNG! And just for that, how about a beer!”

We laughed.


Ed said...

What I wouldn't give to have a crew of talented guys doing what your guys are doing for you. But I also know that talented guys like them on this side of the pond would soon realize they could make way more money than what I could pay them and I would be back where I am today.

By the way, heck of a story going on there with the tour bus. The CNN version is all messed up and hard to follow so I'm off to some of the RP sites.

justkyut said...

Phil, your guys deserve more than a bottle of beer, don't you think? :-)

At last! it's done and it is amazing. really! wonderful! it's real a work of art. your garden is now like a Zen garden. peaceful and calm. what you need near the pond is the chirping of love birds, aha!

@Ed... CNN and BBC versions of that tour bus is really not good to watch.. I just wish they ended the negotiation just before night fall...

Beau said...

Congrats! The pond and stone work is beautiful. Great post, and your exploration of relationships. Just returned home after a trip and trying to catch up...

Abby Rogers said...

I see you're interested in the Air Force! You've got to follow my cousin's ridiculously funny blog about being a new crew chief:

PhilippinesPhil said...

I would love to bring Eddie and Edgar back home with me. Between the two of them we could make a wonderful construction/fabrication business. Their talents are wasted in this place.

I tried lovebirds and hated them. After a couple of months I gave them away. I have a walk in bird cage only a few feet away from the pond with 15 finches. Lovebirds make an ugly squawking as far as I'm concerned compared to finches soothing warbling. Lovebirds are mean bullies. I could not stand the sight of them.

I watched the bus stand off on and all all day too, KNOWING that the local cops would eventually just shoot it up. You have to shake your head sometimes. Was the irony lost on anyone? A disgraced highranking ex cop (why wasn't he in jail by the way?) who THINKS he could possibly get his job back by holding a bus load of innocent tourists hostage? If not so tragic it would be downright hilarious!

Thanks for your comments everyone. I will soon post a video of the whole schmear, including the tower, porch, birdcage and fishpond waterworks.

malor said...

congratulations Phil! The sound of flowing water in a pond or fountain just has this mellowing effect on my emotions too. By the way, I haven't seen a fishpond with a tile bottom. Anyhow, it is beautiful. I just wish the pond in the property that we just recently bought looks like that. Our pond is muddy and weedy. The land used to be a pasture. The cows ruined the pond.

Regarding your father, at least, you are realizing the effect you have in people when you are depressed.

Regarding the hostage taking, it is not good for the Philippines. Now, my husband is afraid to visit. I was hoping that Philippines will find a market niche on toursit attraction from richer Asian countries. What happened just ruined everything. I think the hostage taker guy just acted out of desperation. He is probably unstable to begin with. Losing his job was the last straw. The thing is he attacked the wrong people and the whole country will pay for it. Well, what he did is wrong. I don't want to justify what he did. He should not attack anyone. Violence just doesn't give any justice.

This posting is very rich in content and my comment is getting long. Congratulations again...

PhilippinesPhil said...

Yes, I was thinking of going for strictly natural but the blue tile makes slightly dirty water look cleaner, almost refreshing. Fishponds can get nasty pretty quickly.

The hostage taking cop brings to light how so many law enforcement types here have taken their positions as a way of padding their meager pay. When so many are doing it, they ask themselves, why not me? I'm sure this fellow had a sense of entitlement combined with bitterness that HE was made to suffer for being caught when so many are not. When I see a policeman here I feel a sense of dread. 'Will it be me this time?'

Aside from that I have several cop friends from the US and other countries that were absolutely shocked at how poorly the police handled the standoff. Pretty much everything you can do wrong, they did. I really don't know where these folks get their training from. It reminds me how security services use the '72 attack on Imelda Marcos as another "how not to." Ever see that video? Its farcical.

Don't worry about long comments. I enjoy your insights.

Justkyut said...

Phil he was not in jail because of the motion to reconsider filed for the case. He was waiting for the final judgement since last year and he got impatient that led to the hostage crisis

PhilippinesPhil said...

He was never going to go to jail. He was angry because although there was never supposedly enough evidence to take him to trial, (no witnesses would dare show up to give evidence. Do you blame them?) the investigation still found enough to remove him from the force. What he was impatient about was his appeal to be let back on the force. In that regard I feel his pain. I have been involved with and observed the legal system here. Everything thing, every motion, every pickauni procedure, takes FOREVER. Then again, he had been a cop; he should have known that's how it goes. Can you believe he STILL had his department issue M16? What!