Privilege Blog

Paving Over, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:01am

I love working in the city. People walking on sidewalks, glimpses of sky between buildings, so many odd conversations. One morning I listened to a hard-hatted construction worker and a toothless street man discuss the local Audi dealership, as they separately drank their coffee at a donut joint.

But if I can’t spend my weekend in the suburbs I go a little nuts.

Rose bushes, Chinese evergreen elm, the garden. I’ve lived in this house for 27 years, with only a short hiatus during the divorce, and I love my yard.

Could someone please write an ABCdarius of California-happy plants and gardening terms.? Acanthus, batis, cymbidium, dig.

But one feature of the garden has bothered me for some time. A pond. It was supposed to fend for itself, no pump, just the lovely natural system of plants, oxygen, and water. Maybe a little de-cholorination thrown in to combat suburban water treatment. Instead, raccoons ate my lilies, parrotweed took over, and a squirrel drowned herself in the waters. I pulled out the decomposed corpse. I can still conjur up nausea thinking of those shiny guts.

Besides, I worried about the neighborhood children mistakenly wandering through my gate, and accidents.

So the other weekend I had the gardeners fill the pond in. Just like that. Now it’s a space covered in the pavers that make up my paths. Eventually, it will gray. I’ll interplant some texture.


I worried that my kids would be sad. After all, this is their family house. They get very attached to specifics. But when I texted them the photo, my daughter said, “Beautiful! It was time.” My son told me that the pond hadn’t been part of his childhood. Who knew?

As mothers, we are responsible for the abstract home. Some fathers equally. But it’s abstract, this home, and therefore the constructed relationship of  symbol and ritual to reality shifts without warning. We can let go of more than we know. Just never the children themselves.

I’m planning another water feature. After all, Feng Shui says that I need one in the northern corner, not of stone but of metal. I’m imagining a rock base about 2 feet high, and a shallow copper basin. A birdbath, if you will. The sprinklers will fill it up, the sun will empty it, the copper will turn green. I welcome suggestions from all you tasteful resourceful folk.

This is a very good time of life.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone. May squirrels chatter happily in your trees.



39 Responses

  1. I love those pavers and in our garden we planted wooly thyme in between the spaces and it thrives here. Pretty purple and pink colours which look great against the grey.
    Ponds and racoons seem to go hand in hand
    we had a dead racoon in the garden as we have any traipsing through our yard and Mr. HB had to deal with it …I just could not stomach that job.
    It’s been raining all morning and hailed last night so I am not planning to get out and play in the garden today…sounds like you’ll be having fun in yours.

  2. I own and have read about 25 Feng Shui books. Love the idea. Do you use the traditional directional method or Black Hat Sect which divides up your home and property into easily understood sections?

    We have an inlet or a ‘missing corner’ off the kitchen. When the boys were little we made it into a sand box. It was perfect. I noticed at one point the sand box wasn’t being played in very much anymore – the boys had outgrown the box and were playing in the cul de sac. When did that happen? It took me awhile to get over the transition, another marker of them growing up so fast. It was sad to me to see the sand box empty so we put it a fountain. It’s in my money corner. I’m still waiting for bank account to flood. ;)

    Your ‘cure’ sounds lovely.

    1. I don’t use anything except random Googling! I need more expertise. I’m thinking of buying the e-book at the site I link to lower down.

  3. I love water features but they definitely require upkeep. We have a small fountain that is only filled and running from May to October. Just the months when it’s warm enough to sit outside, or crack the bedroom window and let the sound relax us. I think you’ll get better use of the space now.

  4. Those paving stones are just beautiful. I love anything stone, but especially in a garden.

    (By the way, the city service department is often willing to deal with dead animals (and dispose of them properly); next time, call City Hall first.
    –Road to Parnassus

  5. Ponds are always better in theory than they are in reality. We had a rental house in Seattle that we helped the owners finish (in exchange for rent), and my roommate insisted on putting a pond in one of the garden beds… ended up a mosquito hatchery, and had its own very special smell. Not good. You can look upon your new space as a beginning of gardening opportunities, and an end to squirrel guts.

  6. I’ve owned my little place for 24 years. Even though I owned a marital home in tandem and even though I lived elsewhere amidst owning this patch, it’s always been a grounding thing to/for me. And I have a little potted plant that a three year old LFG bought home from my Aunt Kat’s house. I think I’d kill to protect that tendril of connectedness.

    I get it.

  7. The pavers are gorgeous, and time moves on. I love the idea of a copper water feature that ages with its surroundings and look forward to seeing which you choose. Have fun!

  8. I like the pavers, too, and the look of aged copper as well: Very elegant. I’m focusing on one or two spots in my garden this year. I guess I’m glad we never built the pond we talked about…

  9. Although the visual of your copper basin is lovely, ummm, if you don’t have a pump of sorts, then the sun will not dry out the water fast enough and you will get awful, yucky algae. Also, what the birds love is running water. Standing water doesn’t appeal so much. I would imagine you could find a simple copper fountain that meets your needs. You will still have problems with algae, sigh, but less so. Also, standing water will attract mosquitoes…

    1. Even if it’s really shallow? You mean sprinkler refills don’t count as running water? Boo!

  10. Love your pavers. Also those copper bowls. My neighbor once found a drowned squirrel in her horse’s water trough. Eek.

  11. Your pavers are lovely. Water features are especially enjoyable in the spring, inviting the local nesting birds and their fledglings by for a sip!

  12. Love the stone! Go with a copper fountain, much easier to keep up and less chance of drowning wildlife. plant between the stones, some succulent that requires little upkeep.
    After a certain ‘age’ its all about enjoyment and not upkeep.

  13. Poor squirrel. And who knew we were feng shui? I have a copper bird bath from Smith and Hawken in my North corner. We got it from a wedding gift certificate from someone who knows us so well! I’ve always wanted a pond but pavers work too!

  14. The pavers look great. I’m a big fan of moss in the smaller spaces between pavers but not sure if it will grow in your zone. European Ginger is another lovely ground cover that might work in the larger spaces and it can tolerate a modicum of foot traffic.

  15. The new pavers look beautiful. I’ve always wanted a house with a backyard and a koi pond, but I know the pond would suffer from neglect and turn into a disaster! A copper bird bath or fountain sounds lovely for that area.

  16. We had a wine barrel with plants and some feeder fish to keep down the algae. The raccoons regularly turned the plants upside down to get the fish. It was very frustrating. I gave away the whole thing and started over with a large shallow bowl, smooth black river rocks and a bubbler. This has a nice sound and provides water for the birds. The raccoons still mess it up from time to time, but it’s a lot easier. We also set it up with its own emitter to keep it filled. In winter we put a heater in it.

    Re California happy plants: do you have a copy of Sunset’s garden book? That’s a good resource. Also the SF Chronicle has gardening articles pretty regularly. Walk around your neighborhoodvand see what people are growing. If your neighbors are outside, they would love to tell you about their garden. Really, the Bay Area is one of the easiest places to grow things.

  17. Good for you!

    That’s the kind of clean-up we’d put off until we were preparing to move and then the next residents would get the benefit of a yard without a icky puddle.

    Some things look better in Lowe’s showroom than then do in a normal person’s yard.

  18. Your stones are beautiful and will only grow more so over time. I’m enjoying reading all the advice and ideas from fellow gardeners.

  19. I have always dreamed of a pond in my garden, listening to the frogs singing in early spring, beautiful lilies in the summer. Everything always comes with a price indeed, maintenance, clean up and constant care being the down side. I think I will follow your advise, and stop by my neighbor’s pond in the evening to listen to the frogs chanting.

  20. Like the pinky colour of your paving stones,a very popular colour in our cottage gardens,camomile planted between the slabs smells delicious when stepped on.
    The sound of water from a small fountain is so soothing in a garden.Judith

  21. It looks beautiful now. My grandparents had a pond of fish and frogs and the occasional heron when I was growing up and the loss of the pond was profound, I’m glad your children weren’t sad to see it go.

  22. These pavers look lovely. Even better, in Feng Shui terms they support the elemental nature of north part of your garden: stone is considered to be the Metal element in Feng Shui, which in turn creates Water in the Five Elements cycle. The irregular pattern of the stones also evokes the Water element. So you don’t absolutely HAVE to put “real” water here if you don’t feel like it :) Love this blog — thanks so much for including mine in it!!

  23. I really enjoy your site. I also live south of SF and have an interest in plants that do well in our summer dry environment. You may want to consider either creeping thyme (thymus) or blue star creeper (isotoma fluviatilis). Both do really well in our area.

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