Today the road to Walden seemed strangely unfamiliar. Surely it hadn’t been that long since I had driven it. Yet now the swimming is over I find it hard to come here, especially on a beautiful Sunday afternoon when I really want to be in the water…
Today however, as I walked down the ramp, I found myself wondering if the towel which sat neatly folded on the stone wall was Jim’s. He always folded his towel like that, I remembered. I also remembered that when I was making my way across the pond for those final swim days in mid November, Jim was still swimming in his thigh length trunks and neoprene cap. I had been wondering if he has resorted to a wetsuit, or whether he had gone elsewhere, an indoor pool, or like me, nowhere.
The sun was casting sparkles across the water this afternoon. I shifted my gaze from the stone wall to the water and got a glimpse of black clad arms circling like ferris wheels above the pond. I did not recognize the lone swimmer. Perhaps it seems strange to admit that I might, but even from a distance it is possible to distinguish some of my closest swimming buddies. We probably spent in excess of sixty days watching out for each other after the summer crowds left, each of our styles unique. But I did not know if it was Jim out there.
I continued on my walk along the path, thinking about the fact that somehow I must have made a shift. I was not wishing I was in the water, though when I looked across at the shimmering surface I felt the stillness of it sinking deep into me. I was content to be watching walkers hiking along the shore, fishermen casting their lines, wet with dew drops glistening in the falling sun, kids running and racing each other or skimming stones across the mirror like surface, and the ripples that spread like echoes from their source. And when I tired of watching the perspective of the pond shift around me, I fixed my eyes on the sentinel trunks of trees, stripped bare by Fall, standing watch over all who walked beneath them.