Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lessons from the Yard

Let me tell you the story of a fountain. First, you should know that I love water. I mean LOVE water. But I live in a desert valley. I had this idea many years ago that I should add a water feature to my yard. And a friend had one for sale. Perfect.

So. I bought the fountain. It's made from a special resin stuff that looks like real granite and weighs like it, too. This fountain stands about 4 feet tall and has three tiers. It's fabulous.

My friend didn't have a working pump. No problem. I bought one. My hubby even installed an outdoor outlet so I could plug it in. I put it next to our garage in the back yard, where I could enjoy it from my patio or my dining room table. Three problems became immediately apparent. 1) It was hard to find the perfect power for the pump. One pumped the water so hard it just splashed all over the yard. Another was so little that it created barely a trickle. 2) My dog loves water, too. In fact, she drank out of the fountain and played in the water reservoir, thereby using up all the water, leaving the fountain dry. 3) I had little kids at the time and little time to go out to the yard to fill the reservoir, keep the dogs out of trouble, or remember to turn off the fountain when the weather got cold. Ruined the pump. Therefore, we unplugged the fountain until further notice.

The troublesome dogs.

But did I give up on it? Not at all. I always knew I would find the perfect fit for the fountain. Years later, when I tore up my front lawn and replaced it with a water-thrifty landscape, I decided to move the fountain out front. That solved one problem: the dogs don't go in the front yard. But, I also don't have an outdoor outlet in the front. I had a plan, though. I'd get a solar powered water pump and eliminate the need for electricity altogether.

It took a while--read: several years--to find a solar powered fountain pump. I could find solar powered pond pumps and other almost-fountain pumps. Finally, I found one. But I had another problem. The solar panel had a wire that only stretched about five feet, and I had placed the fountain under a giant elm tree, so I couldn't get the solar panel to a spot with enough sun throughout the day to power the pump for more than a couple of hours.

So we moved the fountain to a spot by the front door, which gets much more sunlight than under the tree. Problem solved. Bonus: get to enjoy the fountain every time I go in and out of the house.

But. . .turns out the solar panel wasn't really that powerful and even with more sunshine, it still didn't pack enough punch for me. Hubby noted that the thing weighed far too much for us to move anymore, and I would have to find a way to make it work in that location. Solution: buy a more powerful solar panel/powered pump. Again, it took a while to find one, and when I finally did, the tree had overgrown most of the front yard, blocking the available sun and limiting the solar power.

Okay. I'm not a quitter. We'd go back to electricity, so hubby found a way to run a power cord through a window with a weather protective box to cover the plug. I bought a new electric pump. Beautiful. Almost there.

Almost? The electrical works. The pump is the right power. The dogs can't bother it. What now? Little tweaks. The water tube sometimes falls down inside the fountain. The reservoir dries up in the 100-degree heat. Sometimes leaves and gunk block up the water intake filter in the pump. These are small problems. I keep tweaking them, because when the fountain is running, I can sit on my living room couch and hear the sound of water through the front window. When I go outside to dig in the dirt, the water trickles through and I can pretend I live along a creek. And now my kids are grown, so I have the ease of going outside to tend the fountain whenever I want, without the distraction of diaper changes, bloodied knees, and arguments over who gets the last popsicle.

Where I pretend I am when my fountain is running.

What does this have to do with writing? Creative thinking. Persistence. Revision. Problem solving. Working until you get it right. Making dreams and goals happen, no matter what.

by Neysa CM Jensen
in Boise, Idaho