Monday, July 20, 2009

Midwestern Paradise

by Julia Buckley
About an hour south of Chicago, right around the place where Illinois meets Indiana, you can find the little town where my parents are spending their retirement years--but you won't find them resting. My dad is a retired electrical engineer, and my mother has mastered every creative endeavor, from macrame to writing to quilting. The two of them spend much of their talent and ingenuity on their back yard and its resplendent pond.

Some towns have "house walks" that are sponsored by a local architectural society, allowing people to tour various lovely homes and their creative decor. My parents take part in a similar thing called a "pond walk." Those who have backyard ponds or dream of having one can tour the little garden paradises of people like my parents. The event is remarkably well-attended, and my son and I volunteered to take tickets for my parents on one of the days of their event.

Now I will offer you a mini virtual tour for free. I hope you find it restful. Imagine the sound of the waterfall.
First you must pass through my parents' garden and all the whimsical things within it, like the wooden deer who guards their garage.
Then you pass by several gnomes, including the one who perches on the overturned flowerpot.
My parents have a commemorative brick from every one of their pond walks--each one represents weeks and weeks of painstaking work. (They have four bricks now).
My father was disappointed that a couple of his train cars, usually reliable, were not working on the day visitors came. Still, two game little trains rode around the pond all day. This is their yard from an aerial view.
Every few feet along the way my father has tucked some whimsical little thing into the scenery, like this little water tower and the men (with their vehicles) who tend it.
This little hotel sports a tiny American flag, a testament to my Dad's patriotism. Look all over this beautiful pond and the gardens beyond it: you won't find a weed. My attempts at lawn care are laughable in contrast to my parents' sculpted gardens.
Here's another view, from which you can see my dad's talent with landscaping.

My father built the pond himself; he had to add on to include this waterfall, which is remarkably soothing. All around the bond are bird feeders and special houses for attracting different songbirds. The two dominant sounds are the falling water and the singing of birds.
This little Swiss chalet with matching cars on a ski lift wasn't working; my dad said that the European company where he bought the little motors had gone out of business, and now the tiny cars hang suspended but still.
If you look closely at the lily pond, you'll see the Koi fish that float underneath, waiting for the cheerios my parents throw them at feeding time. There are some baby fish in there now, as well as some frogs. (Note that in the first lily pond picture, at the top of the blog, you can see only the reflection of sky).
One year my father got this little traveling circus for Christmas. They quickly earned a spot on the pond, where they entertain all day.
I'm really only sharing a few highlights of many lovely sights in their back yard; this little antique ship is moored against the rocks in a picturesque way. I imagine some year a matching sailor will appear.
My father attached this miniature bridge the day before the event. It makes one wish to become small, like Alice, so that she could wander the periphery of this pondland.
Here are my parents, in their blue pond club T-shirts. My mom, as ever, is closing her eyes in the photo. :)

I hope you enjoyed the virtual tour and that, if only for a moment, you heard the sounds of birds and water.


Sandra Parshall said...

I'm so envious! Your parents have indeed created a paradise. It's gorgeous -- thanks for letting us visit it with you.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Wow, what a beautiful place they've created. And I don't even want to think about all the work involved! But I admire them for letting others come to enjoy it. We have garden walks here and I try to attend as many as I can. Lovely place your parents have!

Julia Buckley said...

Thanks! They are truly artists in the garden.

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Julia, that first picture with the lily pads and the sky is a winner. Ever think of entering your photos in contests? You have a terrific eye.

Sandra Parshall said...

Julia, you should write an article about your parents' garden and submit it, with photos, to one of the gardening magazines. This is exactly the sort of thing they publish.

Julia Buckley said...

Thanks, Liz! I made that photo my screensaver because I did think it was quite striking. I've never really entered a contest.

Sandra, that's a neat idea!

judyalter said...


Your parents must be really cool, wonderful people. I hope they passed their imginations on to you!

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Julia - what a lovely post! Wait till I show Donald what wonderful things they've done with their pond - he is going to be SO jealous!!!

Julia Buckley said...

Judy, thank you! I think they are very cool. :)

Kaye, I'll have to send you some other photos. It's really spectacular.

Anonymous said...

What a great hobby! The possibilities stir the imagination as much as plotting a story. Speaking of which, there's a cozy mystery lurking within the pond walk setting...the day of the walk, the body of one of the selection committee members is found floating face down in one of the ponds on display. Who dunnit? A jealous pond owner whose backyard creativity was overlooked by the selection committee? Hmmmm....
Mary Lee Barton