Walden’s Winter Coat

Walden is frozen …. It is December 29 and I open an email to find the three words staring at me …. a sad face emoticon following them. One of the group of twenty odd ‘Ponders’ reporting his findings back to those who have not visited lately.

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Actually, I am not surprised. Although two days earlier I had visited and had been. As I glanced across the pond from the ramp, carefully treading on the crunched up snow and ice so as not to slip, I saw her glazed-over stare at me. The divide between the movement of water and her dazed glassy stillness. It almost seemed like someone had drawn a line across her long axis, just the way I would divide her to swim from shore to shore only a few months back, turning half of her into winter and leaving half of her to contemplate becoming winter…

I did not return the following day, but that night time temperature plummeted into single digits, perhaps even scraped zero, so I knew the freeze would have taken her over further. And then Friday as I slowed my car when driving past, the line that zigged and zagged across her clearly delineated the two-phased-freeze… as if the line had been etched in ice with a knife.

When I did step onto the ice on Saturday, already a four inch thick layer had formed between the fine dusting of snow that covered it and the water beneath. Amazing that so quickly the pond had turned from a swimming hole (I know of a couple of my swimming friends had done Christmas day swims) to an ice skating rink! Little wonder no one was paying any attention to the lonely “unsafe ice” signs that stood upon the beach with the unopened emergency packs strapped to their poles. More of Walden’s visitors were walking on the pond than around it on the snowy Saturday afternoon!

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I stand on the ice remembering back to the time when I lay down and beat my fists on it, over ten years ago now. In those days I felt that somehow winter was my adversary and had robbed me of the thing I wanted most.. the swimming hole that pulled me through the tough times and gave me a sense of my strength and power. I still don’t enjoy winter and now am even less able physically to manage its extremes….

In some ways 2017 has also been a difficult year navigating financial difficulties and a re-triggering of those wounds from divorcing ten plus years ago, but on Friday, as I drove past and glanced at the frozen pond, the first thought that came to me was that Walden’s icy cover had not let me down by closing me out, but that her icing over was somehow  protecting her…. I smiled to myself as I turned and looked back toward the road.

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As the year comes to an end, I reflect on what a wonderful season of swimming I have had… perhaps the best swimming I remember… from those first icy dips over Easter weekend to the extended Fall when swimming was like skating across the pond.

I swam for more months than I have in years.

I hope the winter won’t be as extended as Fall, nor do I hope it is as extreme as it is now, but I am grateful for what Walden has given me this past year.

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And I know, that even though walking on her icy cover, or around her snowy shores, is neither as fulfilling or as easy on my spine as swimming is, it will pull me through the silence of winter as I quietly contemplate the Spring and Summer ahead.

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I wish you all a happy healthy and peaceful new year … and may you find your place of quiet contemplation as I have mine … ❤ Liz

 

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A Thousand Meandering Thoughts in the Pond

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A thousand different thoughts and feelings as the waves swipe me one after the other a million times over. Today, in just a bathing suit after only a week ago feeling the chill creep under my wetsuit I amazingly still manage to lie across the surface as if I am being held by some miracle. I thank God for the power and strength to do this as I winde myself more and more into the face of the wind pushing at me. I feel peculiar, like a rat on a water treadmill stroking with all my might, going no where. I modify my direction so I am swimming across the face of the waves and it is even more bizarre. Suddenly all the world seems to be pushing against me, forbidding my getting to the shore I have in my mind to swim toward. I pass another swimmer and watch him turn his head to watch me. I sense his curiosity at the sight of this lone body pushing and simultaneously being pulled.

Swimming in open water is such an explosive psychic experience.

Somehow I find a rhythm and my body falls into a synchronicity I do not own on land between the back ache and the neck pain and the tired feet. My arms take on a tempo of their own and my breath takes her cue from them. I relax into joy. This is the moment I long for and it lasts and lasts like laughter, the kind that leaves your sides aching though and through, and if I think too deeply, move one muscle out of its context, even raise an eyebrow higher than before realizing the distance from me to shore is still a long way off and I am tiring, it might vanish as quickly as it established itself. Now I feel like that miracle and again I thank God and any other being who watches over me, a tiny speck of insignificance in this mass of wonder and water tumbling over and over and I begin to believe I belong in the water: a dolphin perhaps…?

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This Waiting…

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There is the silence of the sand, the dappled molds, each its own desert dune, extending from the stone steps and as I sweep my eyes along the beach, filling the emptiness of it; waiting.
There is the water, grey and pooled in patient puddles or licking at the curl in the shoreline, the slight line of froth it leaves behind, a child’s milk mustache.
There is the whispering voice of the wave on the sand; when…it chants, when. It waits also.
There is the sky. The blue has faded from the afternoon. It is late March, officially Spring, April a day or so away yet the pallor of the sky belies this. She gives no hint of what might come. She stretches over forest, over sand, over water, over the group of three young women who saunter across the sand on the other side of the pond, chatting happily. She resides over the two teenagers who, sneakers thrown haphazardly on the sand, jean legs rolled two or three inches above the ankles, gingerly tiptoe toward the water. I watch from a distance, leaning on the cold hard stone of the wall. The first retracts a toe almost immediately it touches the water. The head turns toward the friend who lingers behind. Perhaps words are exchanged. I am too far away to know. The toe once more approaches the water and this times the foot enters it. I watch the weight shift onto the leg and the body move forward. I watch the second foot just as tentatively enter the water, slowly, completely, the figure moving forward. I distract myself. How long? I wonder. How long?

This waiting. The sand that yearns for buckets and spades and towels and umbrellas. The water, for bodies to slice through it, skim its surface leaving trails of white foam. The sky which tries to spread blue light and beam the yellow warmth of the sun. When will it return?
April? May? June? …

This waiting. My sneakers tied tight, my socks, thick and warm. Wrapped in my winter coat and scarf. This waiting. …How long?

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