The ponds are all iced. It started on Monday when the wind chill dropped into the teens. The temperature was probably in the 20’s. On Tuesday the frigid air hovered and the sun disappeared behind thick grey clouds.
I didn’t think about Walden until Wednesday when I was driving along a highway that abuts a large reservoir. It was the first time I had seen it completely iced. I looked away and was immediately mesmerized by translucent rays of white sunlight slanting toward earth. The thick grey sky seemed to release them across the entire arc of the windshield of my car. I wondered how it was I had never really noticed them before.
Before I lost Jesi that is.
Then I desperately wanted to go to Walden. But time and commitments forbade it.
On Thursday the sun, weak and white, tried to make a comeback. The temperatures were polar. (Though I admit they couldn’t have been, that is just the way I perceive them.) The wind was strong and frosty and the thermometer tentatively crept from an early morning minus 5 to a middle of the afternoon 15 fahrenheit.
Winter had been unclothed.
When I parked at Walden around 3 pm there were only a handful of visitors. I thought of my friend Tom, a fellow swimmer who, after he finished swimming for the season would wander down to the beach “to look”. We who were gearing up to swim would say “ah ha”, joking in a disbelieving way. Then a few minutes later he would return in swim trunks, carrying a towel. On Thursday when the freezing wind drove me to visit, it was only to do as Tom did. To look.
A week ago there was only a fringe of ice crusting the shoreline. This week, winter had completely taken her. It was hard to imagine except for the bitter cold, that it could happen so quickly.
As I write this I wonder how it is that the last vestige of water crusts over and Walden freezes for the winter. Does it happen overnight? When unnoticed, in the darkness the cold finally seals the underwater world from we who dwell on top. There has only been one year when I visited Walden daily and witnessed the last swimming hole close. It was mid January, 2004, and the only remaining ‘open water’ ran in a channel across Red Cross Beach. One day it was there. The next day it was gone.
Or its form had changed.