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The Best Medicine

15yearsagoBy Brian Van Bower

‘At nearly five months and counting, it’s clear that many of us are still trying to sort out, understand and learn to live with the events of September 11, 2001 – and I suspect that, on some levels, we will be doing so for months or even years to come.’

That’s how Brian Van Bower began his column in the February 2002 issue of WaterShapes – an essay in which he defined a transcendent role for watershapes and conveyed a message about their value that makes even more sense today. He continued:

‘Over and over again, we’ve been told how our lives are now different. Although it’ll still take us a while to find out what “different” really means, we know already that we’ve lost a certain amount of innocence. We’ve also lost a certain naiveté about the way things are in the wide world and are now reevaluating many things, from big important issues such as airport security to more modest concerns such as the courtesy and consideration we show each other in our daily lives.’


‘Thinking about such huge issues tends to make people gloomy – and understandably so, I suppose. But as more time passes, I actually find myself feeling more and more positive about life in general and business in particular. In fact, I decided to write on this topic, as difficult as it is, because lately I’ve been asking myself a simple question: What if, in our own ways as watershapers, we could actually help the world heal?’


‘For years, we’ve been talking about how good water is for us physically and psychologically, how it beautifies and enlivens our surroundings, how it can be used to encompass the beauty of art, architecture and nature. That’s all truly great stuff, and I see nothing at all wrong with understanding those benefits and recognizing how the qualities of water fit into the needs of our current social and economic environment.’


‘In talking to prospective customers over the past few months, it’s become clear to me that they really do need water in their lives, perhaps more than ever before. They need a place to swim and relax. More than ever in my experience, they value the notion of creating an island of enjoyment and tranquility as part of their homes. It all makes sense. In uncertain times, people crave a sense of security and safety. The most natural place to find that haven is in conjunction with their home. And the fact that I’m in a position to craft that haven for them is a source of great pride for me.’


‘[N]ow, more than ever, we should remember that watershapes are all about good moods, fun, enjoyment and togetherness. They embrace our ability to reward ourselves for hard work and give us a chance to harvest and enjoy the hard-won fruits of our labors. At a time when our very way of life has been threatened, understanding and appreciating those values is crucial – and a key to re-establishing a sense of normalcy and calm.’


‘What we have going in our little watershaping corner of the world is only a small part of a much bigger picture, but what I’ve been discussing here has huge implications and falls right in line with thoughts expressed by great philosophers through the ages. They tell us that no matter what has happened in the past, we must take the next step.’


‘Sure, there are those who will dismiss pools, fountains, spas, ponds and streams as entirely frivolous – and in some ways I suppose they are. But when consumers call on me to beautify their homes and increase the quality of their outdoor environments, I am convinced deep down that we truly have something wonderful to offer: Through a positive, winning attitude, I give them just the beautifully frivolous fountain, or stream, or pond or pool they really want.’

Brian was writing about a specific, special moment in our history, but he did so in a way that opens out the message to any time of tumult and turmoil. As we march through the recession – or face any time of crisis – how do you respond to his conclusion that, in such times, ‘watershapers should embrace and celebrate their works with a maximum amount of pride and vigor’?  Please share your thoughts below!


Brian Van Bower runs Aquatic Consultants, a design firm based in Miami, Fla., and is a co-founder of the Genesis 3 Design Group. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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