My Walden

Many of our greatest American poets and writers penned their best work while admiring a body of water. Robert Frost was inspired by hiking the woods in both winter and summer and waxed poetic about the beauty of the seasons in New England. Henry David Thoreau was inspired by the serenity of Walden Pond. Reading Walden as a young man I could relate to the notion of hiking through thick woods, to come upon an opening in the thicket and stumble upon an oasis. A body of water, glimmering in the summer sun, or the frozen surface glistening in the sparse hours of daylight while in the throes of winter. They both convey such a calming image that inevitably leads to a moment of reflection and wonder. I have 2 bodies of water that invoke the spirits of Frost and Thoreau. One is Ossipee Lake, which I am not in sight of year round. The other is my beloved duck pond.

The duck pond is the single one thing that makes the lot we live on graduate from great to awesome. It captivated my mom and dad when they bought it in the 80’s. The lot is two acres but is surrounded by wetlands which mean that despite not owning it, we have the luxury of enjoying another three acres with the security that it can’t be built on. Our view is ours to keep.

The house was clearly constructed with a view of the pond in mind. The main entrance, two sliding glass doors, and many windows all face it. I find myself drawn to the pond year round. Many mornings I have had coffee on the deck and spotted a deer or two that ventured to the water line for a drink. It teems with birds of all kinds, mostly Canadian Geese, and Mallards but occasionally the great Heron with the six-foot wingspan will swoop in like a Concorde Jet landing at a Municipal Airport. I love the birds, all of them. It pleases me to the core to see the small V-shaped ripple in water as a solitary duck makes its way across the pond.

At night, the pond shifts gears from quiet oasis to a bustling ecosystem as frogs loudly make their presence known, crickets (Cicadas?) create a cacophonous symphony, and the industrious beavers work tirelessly at their latest monument. It is deafening in early spring but like everything else, you get used to it.

With the late Spring in New England this year, I have looked eagerly to the pond each morning for signs of my favorite season. The pond tells all, year round. In the fall, the decreasing bird population signals the approach of winter. In the early winter, the encroachment of ice indicates the arrival of winter. In the spring, I monitor daily the receding of the ice and the return of my beloved birds. This year, the pond didn’t give me what I wanted, despite my constant pleading. By the middle of April, it was still in the throes of winter. And then, I think this week, Spring suddenly showed up. The ice is gone, my birds are back and last night the Crickets were deafening, much to the pleasure of my ears. Spring is actually here, I saw both a Wasp and a Tick this morning while walking the dog.

This afternoon, I had a coffee on the deck and admired my pond. My ducks are there, the sun reflected on the ripples suddenly brought on by a light but satisfying afternoon breeze. I have not been outside much lately. My sickness has made me tired, weak and cold. On days that I used to wake early and race outside, I have found myself sleeping late and spending my waking hours under a warm blanket. As I sipped my coffee, reflecting on my life recently, it occurred to me that my beloved pond can serve as a powerful metaphor for my life.

The seasons are fundamentally about change. In New England, we always have four seasons (sometimes in one week) and we can count on it. Change is inevitable. I see it coming by studying my pond. This Spring, my pond shed its blanket of ice and welcomed back all of the creatures that depend upon it. It embraced the change and is now doing what it is supposed to. Today, I shed my actual blanket for the first time and took a step, albeit a small one, towards shaking off the cold, grey winter that has occupied my soul for months. Like my duck pond, I let the sun hit me and I eagerly absorbed it, seeking enough light to allow it to warm me, reflect off of me and have enough in the tank to shine it for those that depend and count on me. I need to welcome back the desire to go on as if the urgency of a coming fall and winter was fast approaching. It is indeed that urgent.

Today, like Frost and Thoreau, I have found inspiration. I don’t know if they ever sat on the edge of their beloved oasis’s with a heart as heavy as I have of late but I can see how it inspired them to put it to paper for others to read and enjoy. It has certainly inspired me to do so, and I hope someone will enjoy reading this. It may be just a blog, but it could also be the first entry in a great epiphany in which a lost soul gets his mojo back.

Imagine that, all this about a bunch of ducks.

Spring is coming

 

February is my least favorite month of the year. Despite the days getting a bit longer, it tends to be a cold, grey and boring month. Football is over, and I am a fair-weather Basketball and Hockey fan at best. Fortunately, it’s a short month.

We joke in New England that the first snow falls it is a Glorious occasion when all is white and pure, each flake unique and beautiful. By February the very mention of snow has you hurling F-bombs at the TV. That’s where I’m at right now. I’m just sick of winter.

It snowed again last night. The weather forecast last night called for an inch or two so when I woke up to see about 6 inches of powdery aggravation I wasn’t pleased. I would have “geared myself up” for the shoveling, spreading of rock salt and cleaning off cars. Wanting to get it over with, I skipped my morning coffee and went right to it. It was light snow so I made quick work of it. Stopping to gather my breath, I felt warmth in the air. I looked around and I noticed that melting had already started. I took off my hat and gloves and just stood on the deck, staring at the landscape around me. I could feel it, it’s almost over. Spring will be here soon.

Spring is my favorite season. I thrive on warmth and sunlight. I barely tolerate winter, I accept it as a necessary evil if I am to live in this region but the short days and lack of sunlight take a terrible toll. On the first warm day of Spring, I will be found outside face skyward, soaking in the rays like a desert flower after a terrible drought.
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It is New Years Day for Mother Nature, a new beginning as grass turns green, leaves bud on trees, the little critters poke their heads out of hiding, and the Red Sox are in Fort Myers, Florida gearing up for another long season of glorious Baseball.

I can’t think of Spring without thinking of Baseball, and I can’t think of Baseball without thinking fondly of my Dad. When I was a kid, my father was still working his way up the seniority list at his job and he would be laid off almost every Spring. Dad was a Heating Oil Delivery driver and the warm weather meant slow business. I was thrilled to have him around, he worked almost around the clock during the winter. I never saw him. Spring became an association for me. Warm weather, school vacation, Dad is home and we’re gonna watch the Sox.
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Dad and I didn’t have a whole lot in common, but we loved Baseball. He taught me to play and we loved to talk about it. One of my favorite memories was watching games on our 3 season porch on a 19-inch black and white Emerson TV with “rabbit ears” antennae. Dad and I would make sure all of the yard work was done in time to sit down for the game. I would listen to him attentively as he explained the strategy of baseball, his most and least favorite players and why he rated them so. It was the only time he wasn’t bustling about and trying to keep busy. When a game was on he was in his seat, beer in hand and relaxed. Until the Bullpen blew a lead, which happened often, at which time he was not so relaxed. Those were hard times economically, but they were special to me.

Today I saw a glimmer of my favorite season. I see on my Calendar that there are 10 days left of my least favorite month. While March can often suck weather-wise, it can also be a good month. And it is one month closer to Spring. Even though I still have 6-foot snowbanks all around my house, I can almost smell the fresh-cut grass, hear the crack of the bat, the children excitedly cheering each other on. And I can still see Dad, Tanned and sweaty, in his faded Boston Red Sox Hat and wife-beater T-shirt calling me, telling me to “hurry up” before I miss the first pitch.

What I wouldn’t do to hear that just one more time.
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