A rare glimpse into the lives of my neighbors

A rare glimpse into the lives of my neighbors

Man has an innate tendency to gravitate towards nature. In a way, nature’s raw beauty touches the inner core of our being. A walk through the woods or sitting on a bench by the stream unfolds much more than is visible. As 19th century writer Laura Ingalls Wilder said, if you really love nature, you will find beauty everywhere. She was the inspiration for the long-running American TV series Small house on the meadow.

American philosopher and transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) immortalized a large pond in Concord Mass, where he lived in a simple little hut for two years and wrote his famous 1854 book Life in the woods. Thoreau’s effort to minimize a creature’s comforts and enjoy the nature around it is something that poets and writers of all ages have written about.

Henry Thoreau 1854 book cover life in the jungle

William Wordsworth in The lines form a few miles above Tintern Abbey Wrote:

“I have felt a presence that disturbs me with the joy of sublime thoughts; a sense of the splendor of something more deeply intertwined, wherein the light of the setting sun and the round ocean, and the living air and the blue sky, dwell in the mind of man.[…]”

I also live in a pond, but unlike Walden Pond, it is not in the woods but in my backyard. It is small – very small – when compared to other similar water sets. It was not created by receding glaciers after the Ice Age, but by a magician named Ralph Collins.

Our American home is located on two acres of land. When we moved home 46 years ago, the large backyard was a bit overwhelming. With a growing family of one girl and two boys and frequent visits from my family from Pakistan, we decided to put together a swimming pool. For over 30 years it has been widely used by everyone except me. Growing up in the old city of Peshawar, there weren’t really opportunities to jump into a stream or water hole and learn how to stay afloat. Hence, I never learned how to swim.

Tired of the high cost of maintenance and marginal use, we decided to get rid of the pool. Getting rid of the pool table is easy, getting rid of the pool is not. A boat owner is said to be happier on two occasions: the first when he gets on the boat and the second when he dumps it. The same is true for pond owners.

A demolition crew armed with a small bulldozer and tons of dirt, sand and concrete filled the empty yawning space. When they left, there was no trace of the pond.

Enter Ralph Collins. I call him a magician because he can turn any bare, bare and lonely patch of land into a magical landscape with flowing water and bushes. He’s a great game hunter, he’s gone to Namibia for some trophies. He’s the type of person that I find a lot in common with.

Ralph Collins, the magician

He looks at an empty space and conjures up images in his mind that are as far from reality as possible. It does so without a rough and rudimentary outline, map, or drawing. His employment is to take a leap — a leap high and a long one — in faith.

He went to work with a shovel, a mini excavator, a wheelbarrow, a few other tools, and some helpers. In time, various types of stones were handed over to highlight the stream and pond. In about three days he transformed the empty space into waterfalls and a small meandering stream that empties into a dug pond next to a seating area we call a “room” (Pashto for the men’s collective gathering place, but our immigration is open to it). All). He added lilies, ferns, and reeds to the pond and imparted algae to the stream which spreads very slowly and, in a few years, gives the stream a natural look as if nature had been working on it for centuries. These plants stand out and highlight the features of the stream.

I was surprised to see tiny little plants growing among the rocks. They were brought there not by human hand but by nature. Somehow, she rode a single seed of breezy cottonwood and planted herself in a small crevice in the lava rock beside the stream and began to grow. Nearby, another small seed of a white mulberry tree found a hospitable spot by the stream and its fallen roots. If they are allowed to grow, they will, in a few decades, become strong and tall and will dominate the stream and the pond. These seedlings are no different from people who are carried on the wings of fate and dropped in strange places where they take root and grow.

White water lilies are wonderful. Its broad rounded leaves break the monotony of the stable surface of the pond. Every week or so lilies surprise me by producing pink flowers of different shades and colors. The flowers, called white roses, open only during the day. The starry yellow interior invites bees and other insects to come and land, take advantage of nature’s bounty, and leave. In the late afternoon the petals begin to slowly close and until the next day the flower is just a conical bud sticking its head out of the water.

Lily flowers are the opposite of night-blooming jasmine (Raat ki Raani), which blooms only at night and spreads its intoxicating fragrance on the shoulders of gentle night breezes. It is true that her name is Rani or Queen of the Night. She becomes fragrant Rani at night only.

tulips in bloom

Ralph Collins, while beautifying the table and pond with plants, also threw in some water lettuce plants. These are beautiful green plants that float freely in the water and reproduce faster than rabbits. Unless they are checked out, they tend to take over and choke other plants.

As the waterfall feeds the stream and pours the stream into the pond, a recycling system keeps the water moving and prevents water wastage.

Somehow word spread in the woods that there was a pond and flowing water. Birds, insects, frogs, ducks, chipmunks and squirrels happily received the news and began to visit the stream and pond. They come and stay for a while and then they go off. In the process, they helped create a complex and interconnected ecosystem.

Robins, doves, and red-breasted sparrows find it exciting to come, bathe well in the stream, flap their wings to dry and fly through the air. Occasionally, teal and bluebirds will decorate the pond with their visits.

I am fascinated by the dragon flies that come every day, stay for hours, feed on mosquitoes and leave. They are frolicking in the breeze, chasing each other, and after a short rest on the swaying reed leaf, they soar again. Sometimes chasing each other results in a long incubation in the air until the male passes his genes on to the partner and then they separate and go on their own fun ways.

Dragon flies are innocent and beneficial flying insects. They got notoriety for their resemblance to the drones that the United States flew over the mountains of Waziristan. Children in Waziristan, Pakistan, when they heard the moan of an approaching drone they were shouting, “Here it comes birpak And the Zanga” (Pashto dragonfly names). Sahibzada Riad Nour, an extraordinary poet, wrote a touching poem about the dragon fly that breathes fire and destruction. This is an excerpt:

View of the pond from the author’s perch on Sharboy

How does the friendly colorful moth come about

Today only he talks and talks,

the language of fire

me and you

Similar in sound but very different, harsh

scary fly

her moan and her moan

The bloodstained claws of a new eagle

never heard of before

Every once in a while, I see twinkling strands running from tree to stream. It is undoubtedly the work of spiders. But what were they doing with yarn without insect traps? Perhaps, I calculated, the string was not a trap but a way for the spider to enjoy itself by zip-lining from its perch in the tree to the stream for a drink or a walk over the water. The possibilities are endless.

However, I can only see and notice a small part of the nature around me. As Shakespeare said in Anthony and Cleopatra“In the book The Infinite Nature of Secrecy, I can read a few.”

#rare #glimpse #lives #neighbors

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