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The Monster in the Pond

Ok, ok, I’ll succumb to popular demand and tell my pond story.  A number of years ago I came into possession of free pond liner and flagstone.  My daughter and I hacked down a juniper that had taken over our front yard, pickaxed out all the roots and rocks, and after watching many YouTube how-to videos, built our Perfect  Pond.   I indulged in  waterlilies, a priceylotus, and some other cute little water plants.  We set free a few mosquito fish, and enjoyed our organic water feature.  Well, it was better than we ever thought.  It attracted birds, dragonflies, and Pacific Chorus Frogs.  In fact, in early February, every frog in the county makes its way over to our little 400 gallon pond and begins their mating calls.  They are so loud that we’ve had to shine a flashlight out the window at night to quiet them down to hear a movie!   Soon we had evidence of amphibian genetic success.

Frog spawn!  Then tadpoles, and tiny frogs that mostly disappeared somewhere until the following February.   The mosquito fish found similar romantic success and soon numbered in the hundreds. 

     Other than giving the non-human youth a Lover’s Lane, as it were, the pond had its ups and downs; the raccoons just loved getting in and knocking over the expensive lotus plant, so it never flourished.  Some very creepy flat-headed black wormy things appeared in the filter, the dragonfly larvae looked like the stars of  B-movies in miniature, and some of the plants tried to take over the world.  After a few years, I decided that there was too much plant growth and it needed to be thinned out.  With rubber gloves on hands and an explorer’s enthusiasm, I went in.  (Oh, and by the way, NEVER put pea gravel in your pond, no matter how many people say to on the Internet or in books.  It’s too sharp to stand on, it can wreck your liner with its pointy edges, and it makes a dead biomass on the bottom of your pond.  Thanks, I had to say it.  I hate pea gravel.   That’s my rant for the night.)

So I was doing all right, standing in my knee boots, groping around under the murky water pulling and untangling long root and stem systems of these too-happy plants, when suddenly…. I felt something.  Something that wasn’t right.  Something that was too large to belong in our little pond with its one gallon happy plants in it.  Something that felt long and nobby like a huge slimy neckbone.  A monsterous, nobby, slimy neckbone.

Now, I’m not a squemish person, nor one to back down at a challenge, but this THING was so not right that I was dropping it and getting my boots out of that pond pronto.  After watching to see if it had followed, and satisfied that it hadn’t taken offence, I decided on perhaps an abridged version of the ten-foot-pole ploy, and used a rake to gently heave it out of the water.  It was all tangled up in my wonderful waterlily leaves, so I tried to untangle as gently as I could, crooning soothingly to it as I worked.  Then, to my horror, I discovered that …. the monster neck WAS my sweet little waterlily!  How could that have happened?  In only three years!

The one gallon black plastic pot had apparently fallen over (thank you, racoonies), and this plant wasn’t going to wimp out like the lotus.  Ohhhh no.  It grew out of the pot and made a U-turn heading back towards the light.  The neck was about 3 inches in diameter, about the size of a human’s, I’m guessing, but more alien.  Observing the true underwater nature of my waterlily made me feel like Rosemary of Rosemary’s Baby fame: my little darling was a slimy hideous monster.  So, I did the only rational thing I could think of.  I shoved the whole darn thing back into the pond, prodded it with the rake (the plant grabbed the tines, I know it did!) until I couldn’t see it anymore (the arch of the neck kept protruding from the water surface!  I had to almost beat it underwater).  Then I went in the house and had a hot bath to get the slime and smell off of me, and try to recooperate.  You bet  I locked the doors.

In conclusion, the invasive pond plants were ripped out, I exchanged some water to help keep the biomass alive, and I learned something about myself.  I’m not afraid of black widow spiders, snakes, heights, caves, or blood.  I am, however, afraid of two things.  One has been a long-standing fear of high-school-aged students, dating back to before I even was one, and I don’t think anyone will challenge me on that one.  The other thing I’m afraid of is that waterlily in my pond.  Its been several years now since this incident, and under the water its been growing… growing….  I haven’t waded back in there since.

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