Where do you go to de-stress? Find inspiration? Reflect and brainstorm and relax? For me, it’s my own backyard.

The pond was not functional when we bought the house. There was a place for a waterfall, but there was no circulation. The pond was ankle deep in sludge that the previous owners’ boys thought would be fun to throw in: bricks, broken flower pots, legos, batteries, a penknife, etc. Unbelievably, there were still three living fish, and a couple of frogs who (no lie) used to swim in the pool every night as if detoxifying themselves with the chlorine.

It took a few years to clean it all up, mostly because my husband had a grandiose scheme that turned out to be a brilliant idea. We dug a stream up the hill, laid in a second, smaller pond, and fitted the whole outfit with a pump to circulate the water.

We learned the hard way that we couldn’t keep fish in the upper pond. They invariably go over the falls. (Whee!) But the frogs love it. In the lower pond, we now have over a dozen goldfish, one beautiful golden koi, and a squadron of mysterious black fish who arrived from outer space. (I’ll talk about that in a moment.)

Fish disappear sometimes, but that’s easy to explain. We used to have a cat, but it wasn’t him. In fact, Maui protected the pond from the most likely culprit: a blue heron. I saw this bird once fly out of the pond, his wing span about six feet across. Maui chased him across the pool deck, then came skidding to a stop when the heron lit upon our fence and looked back at the cat. The heron was fully four feet tall; the black cat weighed about 10 lbs, even when his fur stood on end. There was a stand-off. The cat was thinking: Oh, sh**! The heron was thinking: I wonder if I can carry him off? I had to go out and shoo off the bird myself, although I swear it laughed haughtily at me before departing.

Fish also mysteriously appear. Sometimes, they breed. That’s no mystery. But we do have the Black Squadron, a dozen black fish with silver heads who appeared quite suddenly one year. They can’t possibly have come from our other fish. They are not similar to the other fish in shape or color. One day, they just were there – as if they had dropped from the sky. Even spookier was when we discovered another one in the upper pond. He was larger than the others, and when we moved him to the lower pond, he promptly became their leader.

The most logical explanation is that we bought a pond plant that had eggs in it. (And one of the eggs got sucked up the filter and landed in the upper pond.) But we don’t know for sure. The pond is a mysterious place, and I love it.

Where is your safe haven?
(Do you see the frog in this picture?)