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Recreating the Magic of a Miniature Waterworld

When I was seven, my parents bought four acres of woods, with a brook. Although it ran briskly, it was shallow, and I was allowed to play there without direct supervision. I sat in the water and floated a two-inch-tall red plastic swan down the stream, moving pebbles arround to create an architecture of water for her: channels that swept her swiftly along, then quiet pools like rooms to rest in.

Now I dream about how to give the adult me something like the happy absorption I felt then. In my garden, outdoors—and indoors, too. I've seen fountains you put on a table, where recirculated water cascades endlessly down a series of little bowls or pools, made of brass or pottery or rock—or even glass; the higher bowls set directly atop the lower ones, or offset. In one style, tiny underwater lights illuminate the pools.

A quick search for books on how to make one, shows nine available from our regional library system!

I want to play with the rocks in it. I have a big collection of pretty rocks around the house: they mulch my houseplants, hold books open while I'm reading them, prop windows open in a thunderstorm just enough to let air in without the rain.... The best ones for the fountain would be the wave-polished beach pebbles Ward and I collected at Antibes, on the Mediterranean.

I want to hear how the stream's song changes with different rock patterns. To watch the flow, to lose myself in that dance again, to participate in it, to move it and experiment with it.

Needle frogs, hidden by stones, could hold cut flowers. (Flowers last longer in circulating water.) A button fern beside the water, some baby's tears... tiny delicate houseplants I never have enough humidity for.

To keep mold and bacteria down, I'll make it easy to take apart and clean.

What could take the place of the red swan? Even if I still had her, she'd tip over in the falls; so would a candle or a toy boat—better something that tumbles gracefully with the flow, like a leaf does, a fish, or an otter....

Even when my water sculpture only sits on its table and burbles in the background, that happy sound will bless the house.

© Copyright 2004 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 19 March 2004

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For more information
  • In all the towns where Nashoba Publishing has newspapers, the public library is part of the regional library system, Central / Western Massachusetts Automated Resources Sharing (CWMARS)—except for Groton, which is independent; and maybe Shirley, which is in the process of joining. If you live in Groton, or if Shirley is not yet fully participating when you inquire, you can still get a card from a library which does participate, and borrow books through them.
  • The nine books I found in CWMARS that looked like they'd help me build my tabletop cascade:
    • Simple Fountains for Indoors & Outdoors : 20 Step-by-Step Projects, by Dorcas Adkins
    • Tabletop Fountains: 40 Easy and Great Looking Projects to Make, by Dawn Cusick
    • Tabletop Fountains, by Rod Ferring (a Water Gardens Handbook)
    • Create Your Indoor Fountain: Expressions of the Self, by Paris Mannion
    • Create Your Own Tabletop Fountains, by Paris Mannion
    • Container Water Gardens, by Philip Swindells (a Water Gardens Handbook)
    • Indoor Water Features, by Philip Swindells
  • A table fountain with sculpture. Pretty and fun, but I'd rather have real plants.