Spring Rains Swell the Pond.

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Walden Pond from Ice Fort Cove Point, January 22 2016.

When I took this photo in January 2016 I could hardly have imagined it would lead me to this place. Standing on the point, the entry to Ice Fort Cove, perhaps I was thinking of the many times as I lifted my head above the water I drew an imaginary line between it and where my body was splashing through the surface of Walden. Perhaps I was wishing the winter be over so I could dive back into the water and feel that sense of freedom which accompanied being in the vastness of that mass.

Only that mass of water was shrinking…

For a while, she mask it, the snow creeping to the water’s edge to meet the ice. But in the months that followed the water seemed to become self conscious of the way she sprawled across the land. Urged by the scorch of the sun, the sand became as arid as a desert and the water retreated further and further into the deep bowl of the earth. So that in January 2017, when I trekked across the shore to Ice Fort Cove to photograph that same stump it was unmistakable.

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Walden from Ice Fort Cove point, January 16 2017.

I decided to investigate…
I researched precipitation totals (wunderground.com for Bedford Ma; KBED) grouping them into the following:

Jan-Apr 2016: 4.95 inches
May-Aug ’16: 4.83 inches
Sept-Dec ’16: 11.97 inches
Jan-Apr 2017: 11.69 inches

Over the last eight months we have had almost two and a half times more precipitation than we did in the first eight months for the period I researched!

 

Since January I have made numerous journeys around the shores of Walden. On some I have taken photos of the stump. Like so many of Walden’s visitors I am concerned for the continued low water levels of the pond, wondering when the water will swell enough to fully fill the space it once inhabited; wondering whether this is cyclical, as some suggest, or related to the changes occurring in global climatic conditions…

I cannot answer these questions… But I can say that little by little it seems all those grey days and the drenching rains we in Boston have experienced over the recent months are making a difference.

At least this is what my photos are telling me…

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Walden from Ice Fort Cove Point, March 18 2017.

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Walden from Ice Cove Fort Point, April 28 2017.

An Uncommon Visit.

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It’s February and all of twenty degrees. And if you take into account the wind chill considerably below that. There is a fresh, almost foot of snow, hardly trodden, hiding the beach and yet still there is a corridor of water on the southern side of the pond. It follows the shoreline and dissects the flat expanse of space which I always think resembles a playing field, between the woods on the north and the woods on the south, with a zig zag of rapidly moving water butted against ice, caked in snow, frozen in place.

Yet who knows whether it will last. Or when it will run again.

I stand on the what I know to be beach, shin deep in snow, marveling at how bizarre this scene is. The water, the bitter wind freezing my fingers which, unprotected tap my phone to record images.

Years ago, when I first came to Boston I would drive to the ocean during the winter just to see water, to watch the waves crash upon the beach. The ebb and flow of the tide; so foreign was the concept of frozen ponds. Something inside me felt out of place and I could put it right if I saw water, if I heard the voice of the waves. So I would go to the ocean.
Now as I stand looking at Walden, half ice, half water, snow skirting her shores and decorating the forest beyond, it is the water which seems odd.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

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Walden Wanderings

 

When I look back at the photos I took at Walden earlier this week, I sense how wild she has become. Perhaps it was the shadow as I set off along the southern shore. Perhaps it was my mind, superimposing my thoughts onto what I saw as I walked around the pond, wrapping my coat tight around me to shelter from the bitter winter wind. Thinking about how it seemed that the lack of sufficient snow and ice had left her deserted.

There were no fishermen. Too cold for the regular season’s fishing from small boats or fishermen standing thigh deep in wadders or on the beach. Insufficient ice for the ice fishermen. There were no skaters carving patterns in the ice for there was scarcely any ice, and that which there was, only a thin crust, so fragile it fell away under the toe of my shoe when I touched it. There were no ski trails or snowshoe tracks around the pond, though on Thursday when I walked there was still a smear of snow spread around the most of the shoreline. And even though the pond herself was carved into sections of ice and water, as though lanes of a swimming pool and the sun was out while I was walking, there were no hardy souls venturing into the water.

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Only a handful of others, walking along the shore or the path that skirted it, talking, taking photos or gazing into the distance.

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Skiing and Swimming Walden Style

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A week ago Walden was covered in snow and ice. I had a wonderful Sunday afternoon cross country skiing with a friend through Walden Woods. We stopped to take photos of the sun sparkling through the trees or to discuss which of the myriad of criss crossing tracks we should follow. And at the end of our outing, following the ridge on the southern shore of the pond back to the main road, I looked out over the pond, which had been water until three days before.
“It usually freezes over by the end of the first week of January,” I remarked, remember all the years I had been coming to Walden, and the year, thirteen years ago, when I had been swimming until the ice took the water away.

But by the time I visited Walden again on Friday, the ice was all but gone.
When I walked down onto the sand I bumped into a swimming buddy who had just finished his icy dip! Mike had walked around to Red Cross Beach so he could avoid the wind, swum across the pond to avoid the ice. “It can cut you up pretty bad,” we exchanged thoughts on the matter. “And you can’t see it when you are swimming either.” I added, (having had the misfortune to have collided more than once with the sharp edge of the ice back in 2004). Mike had swum back to the beach on the other side of a large segment of ice that divided the pond in two parts.
I was impressed. Mike wasn’t “blue” and he was making complete sense. Even in November I would sometimes get so cold I couldn’t “get my mouth around my words” properly.

This morning, Sunday, I went back to Walden again. It was a chilly walk, especially along the shaded shore. When I was finishing my walk I found an unoccupied chair and swimming gear on the wall, the gathering place for all the swimmers in season. A small crowd had gathered at the far end of Red Cross Beach. Instantly I knew why. I strained my eyes and sure enough, a tiny black head in the water, watching where he was going arms rotating. It had to be Mike. And he had an audience.

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Summer’s Over and Now … What’s in Store


Even before the buoys were dragged from the pond on Tuesday there were few kids paddling and swimmers stroking inside their boundaries. And the lifeguards seemed to return to school early this year. The towers were vacant for a week prior to the holiday to end the holidays.

Even before Labor Day the morning temperatures began hinting the coming Fall. And since, the skies have clouded over and the rain that stubbornly withheld her bounty from the earth for the length and breadth of summer began to fall like a fine mist. Quenching nothing at first, not the receding skin of the pond, not the woods, not the sand. Yet the clouds and grey mass above continued to gather and threaten the summer away.

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It’s been a quiet week at Walden … Although even that threatens to change as the temperatures climb back into summer as the weekend approaches …

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Perspectives from the Shore

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.

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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.

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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.

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The Best Kind of Gift.

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I returned to Walden on Thanksgiving, this time accompanied by my daughter. It is the second year Kari and I have joined the many visitors who spend a part of Thanksgiving Day walking at Walden: a tradition that for us seems to have grown out of our common need to spend time in quiet comfort of nature since losing Kari’s twin sister Jesi.
…Thanksgiving is the first in the second year of ‘holidays’ we have to navigate since Jesi passed away in September 2014…

Yet unlike last year, neither Kari or I mentioned Jesi. I am sure we both thought about her though. For me, I can never visit Walden without thinking of Jesi, still seeing her smile at the place she sat on a rock munching an apple or tip toed in the shallow water calling out how cold it was or took photos of tree roots pushing their way through dirt and stones. Over the last year, however, Kari and I have evolved so that this visit, the focus was less on our sadness and more on us chatting about what is going on in life now. I feel very grateful that I have been able to develop such a close relationship with Kari, who is in her senior year of high school and applying for college and I listened to her excitedly informing me of her progress in compiling her applications. Occasionally I would jokingly change the subject, interjecting about how pretty the water looked when it was still and where it would be sheltered from the breeze today, impressing upon her my knowledge of the pond through my daily study of it during the swimming season.

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But Kari’s company was not all I was grateful for at Walden. As we were walking along the shore on the south side of the pond a text came through on my phone. I had been thinking about my swimming buddy Cathy earlier in the day but it was at this moment that she texted wishing me a happy thanksgiving, mentioning how our swims during the fall were on the top of her gratitude list.

Cathy was right, Fall was a marvelous season of swimming this year, and I too am very grateful. Walden is a gift that we and many other open water swimmers share. The best kind of gift of all.

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