In one way or another, we can all agree that living, laughing and loving are key parts of the pond life. However, these terms are relative, because we all think of these things differently — just as ponds and water features mean different things to different people. A multi-million-dollar commercial pond with massive boulders, waterfalls and pumps is blissful to one person, while someone else may find serenity in a washtub on the porch with a waterlily and a few goldfish.
Personally, I tend to feel life’s daily trials and tribulations wash away with the sound of water. Moving water always attracts the eyes and ears, luring you to it. I believe it is in your being to explore this sensation, so that it soothes you in that very moment. As you read this, did your mind’s eye wander to a particular feature? Did you picture yourself in front of it, perhaps with a loved one? In the split second of answering this question, did you feel your heart rate drop? Did you feel your worries lessen? This “split second” is what we grasp and share in what we call “Living the Pond Life.”
A Way of Life
On April 15, 2015, my wife Karrie was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer, the same cancer that had taken her mother’s life three years before. The treatment included radiation, aggressive chemotherapy, surgery and then more aggressive chemotherapy. Life as we knew it was changing, and we had to minimize negativity and pessimistic attitudes. We reached out to those who gave us positive feedback and, in turn, inspired us to live positively, laugh and love life in the pond world. Karrie gathered all the good that was sent to her, and she coined a simple phrase — “Living the Pond Life.”
Karrie also was coming to the realization that maintaining a positive attitude of putting this illness in its place regardless of its outcome would keep negativity at bay. By sharing her attitude, it made her realize that she wanted to do more for others who were going through a similar situation. So as the tides where changing again, she decided to give back and donate to cancer research, starting at Pondliner’s Water Garden Expo this past February. All the arrangements were made to bring customized shirts for attendees who wanted to show their support for Karrie with an overwhelming amount of love. However, in the first week of January, Karrie’s white blood cell count dropped, and she had to start a series of injections that would allow her to continue her chemotherapy. Unfortunately, this would also keep her from attending the Water Garden Expo, and I would have to go without her.
My emotions were unexplainable. I could go and share the news that she was going to beat the cancer, but she had to stay home. No one knew this more than our good friends, Demi and Sue Fortuna. Sue is also a cancer survivor, and they both gave us tremendous support.
Sharing the Attitude
Before Karrie’s diagnosis, I wrote an article that appeared in last year’s March/April issue called “You Don’t Have to Mow Water!” [Story link here] At the end of the article, it mentioned Karrie’s announcement of starting her own line of pond products that she was developing that would be called “Living the Pond Life.” This has dramatically changed from a business focused on the pond industry to an entity chiefly about living life. The treatments that we were going through took most of everything we had. We were receiving positive input from so many of our peers and friends. Jason Lenox of Ponds Inc., called many times to give us encouragement and asked if he and Gerard Touhey could help us by starting the Facebook group “Living the Pond Life.” We’ve started using the hashtag on Facebook with “living” and “life” in all-capital letters — #LIVINGthePondLIFE. This was great therapy for the both of us, as it created a passionate group of people to help others laugh and enjoy life with ponds and water features. There’s a good chance you’re already familiar with it.
When the group was started, we got a great response from a lot of people who were also enjoying the ponds and water features that many enthusiasts, contractors and their customers were posting. A member who asked to join by the name “Missy Dunfee” posted a picture of her pond that she and a friend had built by themselves with one shovel, a lot of hard work and much enthusiasm. She said, “In the grand scheme of things, my pond is a puddle compared to the beautiful ones I see on this page, but it gives me hours of pleasure, nonetheless.” Karrie’s immediate response to her was, “That is a beautiful story, and although you think your pond is small, you are living the pond life in a huge way.”
Applications of ‘Pond Living’
As a pond contractor for more than 40 years, I love stories about how people got their start. For example, there is a contractor in South Florida by the name of Alex Castro who owns Tranquil Waterscapes Inc., and the Koi Smart Pond Supply Store. When he was young, his parents took him to an amusement park called Splendid China in Orlando. It featured koi ponds with mini model villages that mesmerized him and ignited his passion to get into the business. It just so happens that when Splendid China closed its doors, one of my customers bought many of those mini houses and set them up beside the pond in his backyard in Kissimmee, Florida. I sent Alex a picture of my customer’s backyard after a visit and then enjoyed a great laugh when an ecstatic Alex called to express how awesome it was to see the setting that got him into the pond business.
Many of us enthusiasts and fellow builders try to apply the lifestyle to our businesses and our workforce. If you have joined us on Facebook, you have probably noticed the antics that Jason, Gerard and I have been enjoying — a brief trip to Pennsylvania to see what Gerard calls his “garden,” which is really just his entire property all the way around his house. It’s so breathtaking that the whole time we were there, I didn’t take one picture. It was just so amazing and mesmerizing that everywhere you looked, there was something else to see and explore. Then we all went to Geneva, Illinois, to see Jason’s newest projects at a few clients’ houses and to show off his pride and joy, his Pond Shop. He and his brother Tony built an awesome pond on his property for 24-hour enjoyment.
We have become so humbled by the outreach of so many people, but we don’t have enough room to list all of them in this article. And just as we reached out to many, many have reached out to us, such as Benjamin Timmermans, who out of the kindness of his heart sent Karrie flowers during her second surgery, as a reminder that she was not going through this all by herself. Also, how cool is it that the great Tony Sargent and his wife Cindy called us to ask if they could put “Living the Pond Life” on their new work shirts? They love what it stands for, and they want to take it to their customers and contribute to the cause.
While sitting in the waiting room of her oncologist, two days short of the one-year mark of her diagnosis, the doctor was delayed, so Karrie caught up on the Living the Pond Life Facebook page. She started to feel that it had become too commercialized from contractors showing off their builds, so she felt compelled to write her own post on April 13:
“Do you guys (pond builders) know what your do for people? You walk into a customer’s life and set them up with serenity and a place to be happy, a place to share, a place where they belong and a place to relax, even when life is not so good to them. You give them a lifestyle! #LIVINGthePondLIFE is what you give them. Living life with a pond, and for that, you should feel awesome!”
These words, when I read them, hit me like a ton bricks. I realized how during this last year of holding my partner’s hand while she went through this battle, it wasn’t just me she was leaning on. It was all of you who do what we do — build some of the most amazing water features while loving, laughing and “Living the Pond Life.”