A place to put it all

I walked to the pond every day as my life ripped asunder beneath the sharp edges of the summer sun. I didn’t think I could lose any more, but that’s the pitfall of thinking. We fail to realize that much of it is dreaming or hoping or both and that only hindsight reveals the truth.

I walked to the pond, stepping over the chain hanging between two posts with a rusty “Private Property – No Trespassing” sign dangling at an angle. The open field spread out golden with drought, grass rippling in the breeze, as I trudged down the dirt and gravel road to the eerie still water. Over the summer I collected three or four good walking sticks, good grip, good height, that I kept leaning against one of the posts. I grabbed one when I walked to the pond, poking the path before me as I kicked up dust.

I walked to the pond because the quiet called to me. Life felt noisy (it still does), and yet I found the sounds of birds calling and fish splashing neither irksome nor exhausting. I waited for the faint hum of a dragonfly zipping by my head. I closed my eyes and listened to the wind in the grass and trees and overgrowth, each had their own tenor, their own pitch in the song of it all. I sat at the edge and waited for a sign in the birdsong, a message in the gentle creases of the otherwise calm surface, a pardon from my own life, or what remained of it, outlined in the topiary shadows cast from all sides.

I cried by the pond, wanting.

I returned to the pond in winter. The chain had been replaced with a bona fide gate between the poles, glossy green paint still without rust. Only one of my walking sticks remained, lying almost concealed in the wet grass. It was cold and dirty and soft with rain, but even the weathering hadn’t taken its integrity. It held the weight of my left side, easing any lymphedema that might try to encroach with its don’t-forget-you’re-a-patient-not-a-person ache. It carried me down the hill, as though it remembered summer as well and knew I could use the company.

I returned to the pond, stopping on the path to see what the bare trees revealed, to witness what remained. I thought of all the lush, tangled green of summer, how sometimes we must be stripped of our familiar, our lives crafted as they are by seasons, like any other living thing. Letting go, relinquishing, the subtle death of change so that something else might grow back come spring. I shivered at the rippling, breathing with the cold, air.

(The snow fell unexpected. I woke up on Sunday, early, and there it was, the air velvety with it. Once the sun was well risen, I bundled up and rambled past branches and bushes with their shining white accents, like veins sitting on the surface, the nature of things turned inside out. Beside the road to the pond, days of heavy rain merged with the snow, creating a run-off. At the top of the hill, it sat, lazy and sodden. But as the trail toppled downward, it became something else, a creek, maybe, and it made that sound that creeks make, which we call “babble,” or worse, “gurgle,” although it’s much sweeter, bright. Curious. About that moment and the rocks tickling its underbelly, about where it might be going, and how it managed to end up tripping over itself on its way to- the water continued to wander, out of sight.)

I returned to the pond because it served as a repository for my memories of life gone awry. My pain and rage floated just beneath the surface, my tears watered the foliage that encircled it. The tall pines and oaks wrapped their branches around my brokenness, held me together through fall, months passing lonely, slow. The quiet tipped into silence, as those birds had flown, taking part of me with them.

I will visit the pond come spring, its flush depth. Then, I will measure how low we must sink before beginning our ascent, our requisite growth, our rebirth.

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