Archive for May 12th, 2010

Strictly speaking, the quote should be “If you build it, he will come”. It’s from Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella, but was made famous by Kevin Costner in the movie Field of Dreams.

Three years ago at dusk on a spring evening, when the sky was a robin’s-egg blue and the wind as soft as a day-old chick, I was sitting on the verandah of my farm home in eastern Iowa when a voice very clearly said to me, “If you build it, he will come.”

Of course, the voice speaking to Ray Kinsella wanted him to build a baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfield. I can’t say I’m a baseball fan, but I enjoyed the book, and the movie too. A bit corny, but hey.

Tony, former owner of Willow House, oversaw the construction of the pond. He’s never mentioned any voice prompting him to begin work nor anything about sitting on the verandah.   The pond was built for the practical purpose of supplying water to the nursery operation Tony ran. Nevertheless, Tony built the pond and they came: a wonderful assemblage of plants and animals that have turned the once-flat piece of farmland into a natural wonder. The first step was the removal of the topsoil from the site, an area of about 175 square feet. This was completed in the autumn of 1993.

Next, a layer of sand was removed, and the pond was sculped into the underlying clay. On average, the pond is about four feet deep, but some areas are up to eight feet deep. The pond captures water from precipitation and spring runoff from the surrounding fields. By May of 1995, the pond was full and providing Tony’s young sons with a place to practise their canoeing skills.

The pond is no longer used as a water source, and the naturalization process that I imagine began almost immediately is still ongoing. Fish live in the deeps, painted turtles bask on a log, bullfrogs call, dragonflies zip around the cattails that line the shore, tree swallows gracefully dip and weave over the water. Even if there was no voice guiding Tony, I’m glad he found the inspiration to build the pond, and even happier to be the beneficiary, as I regularly visit the pond to see what’s new.

Special thanks also to Tony for sharing the history of the pond and his photographs of its development.

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